Happy New Year! Federal Debt Grows $1 Trillion Under Trump In 2019

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Rudy Takala Contributor
Font Size:

Debt held by the federal government grew by more than $1 trillion in 2019, according to Treasury Department data, to reach a total of $23.1 trillion.

The increase marks the third consecutive year national debt has grown since the president took office. The figure grew by $1.5 trillion in 2018, the first full year Trump served in the White House, and by $600 billion in 2017. The debt stood at $19.9 trillion when Trump was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2017.

The numbers mean debt is rising more quickly under President Trump than it did under President George W. Bush. President Obama still holds the record for presiding over the most rapid growth.

The debt grew from $5.6 trillion the day President Bush was inaugurated in 2001 to about $6.8 trillion by the end of 2003, a period that included the beginning of the War on Terror. It grew from roughly $10.5 trillion when President Obama was inaugurated in 2009 to about $15.2 trillion by the end of 2011. (RELATED: KOLB: Japan Is In Decline — Its Massive Debt Is No Model To Follow)

Obama added about $8.5 trillion to the debt during all eight years of his administration, while Bush added a total of about $5 trillion.

Of the $23.1 trillion in debt the government holds today, debt held by the public — which includes individuals, corporations, state and local governments, and foreign governments — comprises a little more than $17.1 trillion. Intragovernmental holdings — debt the government owes itself — represent nearly $6 trillion.

A Congressional Budget Office forecast published in August projected that debt held by the public would reach $29.3 trillion by 2029, or 95 percent of gross domestic product. The report noted, “At that point, such debt would be the largest since 1946 and more than twice the 50-year average.”

Spending growth has been driven primarily by entitlement programs. CBO estimated that total mandatory outlays in 2019 would equal $2.7 trillion, up from $2.6 trillion in 2018. “Most of that $144 billion increase is attributable to greater outlays for Social Security, Medicare, and higher education,” the report said.

That mandatory spending comprises about 65 percent of the annual budget, while discretionary spending programs — such as national defense, elementary and secondary education and housing assistance — account for the rest. “CBO anticipates that, if no further appropriations are provided this year, discretionary outlays will total $1.3 trillion in 2019 — $67 billion (or 5 percent) more than last year’s amount,” the report added.