U.S. Debt Tops $14.2T; Treasury Down to $45.5B Cash

By Terence P. Jeffrey | April 7, 2011 | 2:18 PM EDT

President Barack Obama, then-House Minority Leader John Boehner (R.-Ohio), and then-House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D.-Md.) at a Fiscal Responsibility Summit at the White House in February 2009. (AP file photo)

(CNSNews.com) - The legally limited portion of the national debt increased $18.22 billion on Tuesday, climbing from $14.1917 trillion ($14,191,736,000,000.00) to $14.2099 trillion ($14,209,963,000,000.00) by the close of business that day, according to the latest daily statement issued by the U.S. Treasury Department.

Under current law, the Treasury may not borrow more than $14.2940 trillion (14,294,000,000,000.00). Thus, as of Tuesday, the government had only $84 billion in borrowing authority left.

Also as of the close of business on Tuesday, the Treasury had only $45.5 billion in cash on hand.

Back on March 1, the Treasury issued a press release stating that it estimated "the United States will reach the debt limit between April 15, 2011 and May 31, 2011." Since then, the Treasury has not updated its estimate. April 15 is next Friday.

(Ordinarily, April 15 is also the deadline for Americans to file their federal tax returns. However, the IRS moved the deadline this year because the local government of the District of Columbia will be shutdown on April 15 for a holiday. “Taxpayers will have until Monday, April 18 to file their 2010 tax returns and pay any tax due because Emancipation Day, a holiday observed in the District of Columbia, falls this year on Friday, April 15,” said the IRS. Technically, Emancipation Day is April 16, but that is a Saturday this year, so the District of Columbia will celebrate it by closing on Friday instead.)

Almost all of the federal government’s debt—99.5 percent of it, according to the Congressional Research Service--is subject to a limit legally set in a statute passed by Congress and signed by the President.

Since President Barack Obama was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2009, he and Congress have acted to increase the legal debt limit three times.

On Feb. 17, 2009, President Obama signed a $787 billion economic stimulus law enacted by a Democratic-majority Congress that included a provision lifting the debt limit from $11.315 trillion to $12.104 trillion. On Dec. 28, 2009, Obama signed another law enacted by the Democratic Congress that lifted the debt limit to $12.394 trillion. Less than two months after that, on Feb. 12, 2010, President Obama signed yet another law enacted by the Democratic Congress that lifted the legal debt limit to the current $14.294 trillion.

Most of the government’s spending at this point is forced on the Treasury by its need to redeem maturing Treasury securities (or loans the government took out in the past that have come due).

Since the beginning of this fiscal year on Oct. 1, 2010, according to the latest Treasury statement, the Treasury has spent a net total of $5.662 trillion ($5.95 trillion in gross spending minus $287.66 billion in tax refunds). At the same time, it has taken in a net total of $785.5 billion in taxes ($1.0731 trillion in gross tax receipts minus the $287.66 billion in tax refunds).

That means that thus far in fiscal 2011, the government’s $5.662 trillion in net spending has been more than 7 times its net tax revenue of $785.5 billion.

(In the month of March alone, as CNSNews.com reported earlier this week, the net federal spending of $1.0528 trillion was more than 8 times the net federal tax revenue of $128.179 billion.)

To pay off its old loans and keep other government programs funded, the Treasury each month is forced to take out new loans in excess of the old loans it retires—as it does so, the total national debt increases.

At the beginning of this fiscal year, on Oct. 1, 2010, the total federal debt subject to the legal limit was $13.5108 trillion--compared $14.2099 trillion on Tuesday. That means the government has increased its debt by $691.9 billion already this fiscal year—with about six months left to go.

However, unless or until Congress acts to increase the current legal debt limit of 14.294 trillion, the Treasury will only be able to borrow another $84 billion.

When the Treasury hits the legal debt limit of $14.249 trillion, the federal government will then owe $126,932 for each one of the 112,611,029 households the Census Bureau estimates there are in the United States.