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FLASHBACK—Obama’s First Speech to Congress: We Can’t Pass on to Our Children a Debt They Can’t Pay

Terence P. Jeffrey
By Terence P. Jeffrey | January 11, 2016 | 3:25 PM EST

President Obama addressing joint session of Congress on Feb. 24, 2009. (Screen capture)

In his first speech to a joint session of Congress, delivered on Feb. 24, 2009--a little more than a month after his inauguration--President Barack Obama warned that we have a “responsibility” not to pass on to our children a federal debt they cannot pay.

“There is, of course, another responsibility we have to our children,” Obama said in that speech. “And that's the responsibility to ensure that we do not pass on to them a debt they cannot pay. That is critical.”

At this point, a chuckling Obama paused to accept a standing ovation from the chamber. Then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was sitting behind the podium, was one of the first to stand and applaud.

“Yeah, I agree. Absolutely,” Obama said accepting the applause.

“See, I know we can get some consensus in here,” Obama said.

At this, many in the chamber laughed.

“With the deficit we inherited, the cost of the crisis we face, and the long-term challenges we must meet, it has never been more important to ensure that as our economy recovers, we do what it takes to bring this deficit down. That is critical.”

On the day Obama delivered this speech, according to the U.S. Treasury, the federal debt stood at $10,843,355,058,860.91.

As of the close of business on Jan. 7, 2016, the federal debt stood at $18,887,876,761,105.13.

That means the debt has increased by $8,044,521,702,244.22 since Obama gave his speech to the joint session of Congress declaring that he and members of Congress have a responsibility not to pass on to children “a debt they cannot pay.”

According to Census Bureau estimates, there were approximately 74,548,215 people under 18 years of age living in the United States as of July 2009, the year Obama gave this speech.

That means that the federal debt now equals approximately $253,365 for each of the Americans who was 18 and under in the year President Obama declared to Congress that he and they share a responsibility not to pass on to our children a debt they cannot pay.

It also means that since the day Obama declared this to a joint session of Congress, the federal debt has increased by approximately $107,910 for each person 18 and under living in the country at that time.

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