National Debt Increases for 53rd Straight Fiscal Year; Jumped $1.65 Trillion in FY 2010

By Terence P. Jeffrey | October 14, 2010 | 5:54 PM EDT

President Barack Obama participates in a youth town hall event broadcast live on BET, CMT and MTV networks, Thursday, Oct. 14, 2010, in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

( - The national debt increased for the 53rd straight fiscal year, jumping $1.65 trillion in fiscal 2010, according to data posted online by the Bureau of the Public Debt and confirmed by a spokesperson for the agency. The bureau is a division of the U.S. Treasury Department.

In the past, there have been times when the federal government has managed to put together strings of years when the national debt fell. This was the case, for example, between 1920 and 1930, when the federal debt declined every year for eleven years before the government began ramping up borrowing and spending in response to the Great Depression.

The bureau says its reporting of the federal debt as of the end of each fiscal year (as posted here) states exactly to the penny the full and actual amount the U.S. government has borrowed as of that date.

The bureau’s comprehensive accounting of the “total public debt outstanding” includes not only that portion of the national debt held by the public in securities such as Treasury bonds but also that portion which is in the form of special government securities (or IOUs) held by elements of the federal government itself such as the Social Security trust fund--from which the Treasury Department has borrowed money in order to pay government expenses not related to Social Security.

1957, when Dwight Eisenhower served as president, was the last fiscal year, according to the Bureau of the Public Debt, when the total federal debt did not increase.

Back then, federal fiscal years ended on June 30 (since 1977 they have ended on Sept. 30). At the close of business on June 30, 1956, the federal debt was exactly $272,750,813,649.32. A year later, at the close of business on June 30, 1957, the federal debt was $270,527,171,896.43—a decline of 2,223,641,752.89 (or approximately $2.2 billion) for the year.

By the end of fiscal year 1958, on June 30, 2008, the federal debt had climbed to $276,343,217,745.81—an increase of $5,816,045,849.38 (or approximately $5.8 billion) for the year.

That began an unbroken 53-year string of fiscal years in which the federal debt increased.

As of Sept. 30, 2010, the last day of fiscal year 2010, the federal debt stood at exactly $13,561,623,030,891.79. This was an increase of just over $13.29 trillion (or exactly $13,291,095,858,995.36) from fiscal 1957.

During the federal government’s 53-year-long string of increasing the national debt, the debt has jumped by an average of about $250.8 billion per year.

In fiscal 2010, according to the Bureau of the Public Debt, it increased by $1,651,794,027,380.04. That was the second largest increase in the nominal dollar value of debt in the nation’s history. The largest increase was fiscal 2009, when the debt increased by $1,885,104,106,599.26.

The total public debt outstanding as monitored by the Bureau of Public Debt increased even in fiscal years 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001, when the Congressional Budget Office reported a total federal “surplus." This is because the “deficit” as defined by CBO equals total federal expenditures minus total federal revenues (including revenues from Social Security taxes and revenues dedicated to other federal trust funds). In this accounting, borrowing and spending Social Security tax revenues from the Social Security trust fund helps decrease the deficit (or produce an apparent surplus) in any particular year.

The Treasury Department’s accounting of “total public debt outstanding,” by contrast, considers the money borrowed from the Social Security trust fund as money the government has actually borrowed and must actually pay back and, therefore, as part of the federal government’s debt.

Eventually, people who pay Social Security taxes that the government borrows to fund other expenses will need to be paid Social Security benefits out of money the government must either tax or borrow from someone else.