|This article is part of a series on the|
| Budget and debt in the|
United States of America
The history of United States debt ceiling deals with movements in the United States debt ceiling since it was created in 1917. Management of the United States public debt is an important part of the macroeconomics of the United States economy and finance system, and the debt ceiling is a limitation on the federal government's ability to manage the economy and finance system. The debt ceiling is also a limitation on the federal government's ability to finance government operations, and the failure of Congress to authorise an increase in the debt ceiling has resulted in crises, especially in recent years. The debt ceiling has been suspended since October 30, 2015.
A statutorily imposed debt ceiling has been in effect since 1917 when the US Congress passed the Second Liberty Bond Act . Before 1917 there was no debt ceiling in force, but there were parliamentary procedural limitations on the amount of debt that could be issued by the government.
Except for about a year during 1835–1836, the United States has continuously had a fluctuating public debt since the US Constitution legally went into effect on March 4, 1789. Debts incurred during the American Revolutionary War and under the Articles of Confederation led to the first yearly report on the amount of the debt ($75,463,476.52 on January 1, 1791). The national debt, as expressed in absolute dollars, has increased under every presidential administration since Herbert Hoover.
Prior to 1917, the United States did not have a debt ceiling, with Congress either authorizing specific loans or allowing Treasury to issue certain debt instruments and individual debt issues for specific purposes. Sometimes Congress gave Treasury discretion over what type of debt instrument would be issued.
Between 1788 and 1917 Congress would authorise each bond issue by the United States Treasury by passing a legislative act that approved the issue and the amount.
In 1917, during World War I, Congress created the debt ceiling with the Second Liberty Bond Act of 1917, which allowed Treasury to issue bonds and take on other debt without specific Congressional approval, as long as the total debt fell under the statutory debt ceiling. The 1917 legislation set limits on the aggregate amount of debt that could be accumulated through individual categories of debt (such as bonds and bills).
In 1939, Congress instituted the first limit on total accumulated debt over all kinds of instruments.The debt ceiling, in which an aggregate limit is applied to nearly all federal debt, was substantially established by Public Debt Acts passed in 1939 and 1941 and subsequently amended. The United States Public Debt Act of 1939 eliminated separate limits on different types of debt. The Public Debt Act of 1941 raised the aggregate debt limit on all obligations to $65 billion, and consolidated nearly all federal borrowing under the U.S. Treasury and eliminated the tax-exemption of interest and profit on government debt.
Subsequent Public Debt Acts amended the aggregate debt limit: the 1942, 1943, 1944, and 1945 acts raised the limit to $125 billion, $210 billion, $260 billion, and $300 billion respectively.In 1946, the Public Debt Act was amended to reduce the debt limit to $275 billion. The limit stayed unchanged until 1954, the Korean War being financed through taxation.
A feature of the Public Debt Acts, unlike the 1919 Victory Liberty Bond Act which financed American costs in the First World War, was that the new ceiling was set about 10% above the actual federal debt at the time.
Prior to the Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, the debt ceiling played an important role since Congress had few opportunities to hold hearings and debates on the budget.James Surowiecki argued that the debt ceiling lost its usefulness after these reforms to the budget process.
In 1979, noting the potential problems of hitting a default, Dick Gephardt imposed the "Gephardt Rule," a parliamentary rule that deemed the debt ceiling raised when a budget was passed. This resolved the contradiction in voting for appropriations but not voting to fund them. The rule stood until it was repealed by Congress in 1995.
Depending on who is doing the research, it is said that the US has raised its debt ceiling (in some form or other) at least 90 times in the 20th century.
The debt ceiling was raised 74 times from March 1962 to May 2011,including 18 times under Ronald Reagan, eight times under Bill Clinton, seven times under George W. Bush, and five times under Barack Obama. In practice, the debt ceiling has never been reduced, even though the public debt itself may have reduced.
Congress has raised the debt ceiling 14 times from 2001–2016. The debt ceiling was raised a total of 7 times (total increase of $5365bil) during Pres. Bush's eight-year term and it was raised 11 times (as of 03/2015 a total increase of $6498bil) during Pres. Obama's eight years in office.
The 1995 request for a debt ceiling increase led to debate in Congress on reduction of the size of the federal government, which led to the non-passage of the federal budget, and the United States federal government shutdown of 1995–96. The ceiling was eventually increased and the government shutdown resolved.
In 2011, Republicans in Congress used the debt ceiling as leverage for deficit reduction because of the lack of Congressional normal order for fiscal year budget votes on the chamber floors and subsequent conference reconciliations between the House and the Senate for final budgets. The credit downgrade and debt ceiling debacle contributed to the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling 2,000 points in late July and August. Following the downgrade itself, the DJIA had one of its worst days in history and fell 635 points on August 8.The GAO estimated that the delay in raising the debt ceiling raised borrowing costs for the government by $1.3 billion in 2011 and noted that the delay would also raise costs in later years. The Bipartisan Policy Center extended the GAO's estimates and found that the delay raised borrowing costs by $18.9 billion over ten years.
Following the increase in the debt ceiling to $16.394 trillion in 2011,the United States again reached the debt ceiling on December 31, 2012 and the Treasury began taking extraordinary measures. The fiscal cliff was resolved with the passage of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA), but no action was taken on the debt ceiling. With the ATRA tax cuts, the government indicated that the debt ceiling needed to raise by $700 billion for it to continue financing operations for the rest of the 2013 fiscal year and that extraordinary measures were expected to be exhausted by February 15. Treasury has said it is not set up to prioritize payments, and it's not clear that it would be legal to do so. Given this situation, Treasury would simply delay payments if funds could not be raised through extraordinary measures and the debt ceiling had not been raised. This would put a freeze on 7% of the nation's GDP, a contraction greater than the Great Recession. The economic damage would worsen as recipients of social security benefits, government contracts, and other government payments cut back on spending in response to having the freeze in their revenue.
The No Budget, No Pay Act of 2013 suspended the debt ceiling from February 4, 2013 until May 19, 2013. On May 19, the debt ceiling was formally raised to approximately $16.699 trillion to accommodate the borrowing done during the suspension period. However, after the end of the suspension, the ceiling was raised only to the actual debt at that time, and Treasury needed to activate extraordinary measures to avoid a default. With the impacts of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 tax increases on those who make $400,000 per year, the 2013 sequester, and a $60 billion payment from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that reached the Treasury on June 28, 2013, the extraordinary measures were predicted to last until October 17 by the Treasury,but financial firms suggested funds might have lasted a little longer. Jefferies Group said extraordinary measures might have lasted until the end of October while Credit Suisse estimated mid-November.
Note that this table does not go back to 1917 when the debt ceiling started.
|Table of historical debt ceiling levels|
(billions of dollars)
|Change in Debt Ceiling|
(billions of dollars)
|June 25, 1940||49|
|February 19, 1941||65||+16|
|March 28, 1942||125||+60|
|April 11, 1943||210||+85|
|June 9, 1944||260||+50|
|April 3, 1945||300||+40|
|June 26, 1946||275||−25|
|August 28, 1954||281||+6|
|July 9, 1956||275||−6|
|February 26, 1958||280||+5|
|September 2, 1958||288||+8|
|June 30, 1959||295||+7|
|June 30, 1960||293||−2|
|June 30, 1961||298||+5|
|July 1, 1962||308||+10|
|March 31, 1963||305||−3|
|June 25, 1963||300||−5|
|June 30, 1963||307||+7|
|August 31, 1963||309||+2|
|November 26, 1963||315||+6|
|June 29, 1964||324||+9|
|June 24, 1965||328||+4|
|June 24, 1966||330||+2|
|March 2, 1967||336||+6|
|June 30, 1967||358||+22|
|June 1, 1968||365||+7|
|April 7, 1969||377||+12|
|June 30, 1970||395||+18|
|March 17, 1971||430||+35|
|March 15, 1972||450||+20|
|October 27, 1972||465||+15|
|June 30, 1974||495||+30|
|February 19, 1975||577||+82|
|November 14, 1975||595||+18|
|March 15, 1976||627||+32|
|June 30, 1976||636||+9|
|September 30, 1976||682||+46|
|April 1, 1977||700||+18|
|October 4, 1977||752||+52|
|August 3, 1978||798||+46|
|April 2, 1979||830||+32|
|September 29, 1979||879||+49|
|June 28, 1980||925||+46|
|December 19, 1980||935||+10|
|February 7, 1981||985||+50|
|September 30, 1981||1,079||+94|
|June 28, 1982||1,143||+64|
|September 30, 1982||1,290||+147|
|May 26, 1983||1,389||+99||Pub.L. 98–34|
|November 21, 1983||1,490||+101||Pub.L. 98–161|
|May 25, 1984||1,520||+30|
|June 6, 1984||1,573||+53||Pub.L. 98–342|
|October 13, 1984||1,823||+250||Pub.L. 98–475|
|November 14, 1985||1,904||+81|
|December 12, 1985||2,079||+175||Pub.L. 99–177|
|August 21, 1986||2,111||+32||Pub.L. 99–384|
|October 21, 1986||2,300||+189|
|May 15, 1987||2,320||+20|
|August 10, 1987||2,352||+32|
|September 29, 1987||2,800||+448||Pub.L. 100–119|
|August 7, 1989||2,870||+70|
|November 8, 1989||3,123||+253||Pub.L. 101–140|
|August 9, 1990||3,195||+72|
|October 28, 1990||3,230||+35|
|November 5, 1990||4,145||+915||Pub.L. 101–508|
|April 6, 1993||4,370||+225|
|August 10, 1993||4,900||+530||Pub.L. 103–66|
|March 29, 1996||5,500||+600||Pub.L. 104–121|
|August 5, 1997||5,950||+450||Pub.L. 105–33|
|June 11, 2002||6,400||+450||Pub.L. 107–199|
|May 27, 2003||7,384||+984||Pub.L. 108–24|
|November 16, 2004||8,184||+800||Pub.L. 108–415|
|March 20, 2006||8,965||+781||Pub.L. 109–182|
|September 29, 2007||9,815||+850||Pub.L. 110–91|
|June 5, 2008||10,615||+800||Pub.L. 110–289|
|October 3, 2008||11,315||+700||Pub.L. 110–343|
|February 17, 2009||12,104||+789||Pub.L. 111–5|
|December 24, 2009||12,394||+290||Pub.L. 111–123|
|February 12, 2010||14,294||+1,900||Pub.L. 111–139|
|January 30, 2012||16,394||+2,100||Pub.L. 112–25|
|February 4, 2013||Suspended|
|May 19, 2013||16,699||+305||Pub.L. 113–3|
|October 17, 2013||Suspended|
|February 7, 2014||17,212|
|March 15, 2015||18,113|
End of auto adjust
|October 30, 2015||Suspended||Pub.L. 114–74|
|March 15, 2017||19,847 (de facto)||+1,734|
|September 30, 2017||Suspended||Pub.L. 115–56|
|March 1, 2019||22,030 (de facto)||+2,183|
|August 2, 2019||Suspended|
|July 31, 2021||TBD|
Reference for values between 1993 and 2015:
1. The figures are unadjusted for the time value of money, such as interest and inflation and the size of the economy that generated a debt.
2. The debt ceiling is an aggregate of gross debt, which includes debt in hands of public and in Intragovernment accounts.
3. The debt ceiling does not necessarily reflect the level of actual debt.
4. From March 15 to October 30, 2015 there was a de facto debt limit of $18.153 trillion,due to use of Extraordinary measures. This is how a crisis was avoided.
The Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund and Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund are trust funds that provide for payment of Social Security benefits administered by the United States Social Security Administration.
The national debt of the United States is the total debt, or unpaid borrowed funds, carried by the federal government of the United States, which is measured as the face value of the currently outstanding Treasury securities that have been issued by the Treasury and other federal government agencies. The terms "national deficit" and "national surplus" usually refer to the federal government budget balance from year to year, not the cumulative amount of debt. A deficit year increases the debt, while a surplus year decreases the debt as more money is received than spent.
A balanced budget amendment is a constitutional rule requiring that a state cannot spend more than its income. It requires a balance between the projected receipts and expenditures of the government.
PAYGO is the practice in the United States of financing expenditures with funds that are currently available rather than borrowed.
The United States federal budget comprises the spending and revenues of the U.S. federal government. The budget is the financial representation of the priorities of the government, reflecting historical debates and competing economic philosophies. The government primarily spends on healthcare, retirement, and defense programs. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office provides extensive analysis of the budget and its economic effects. It has reported that large budget deficits over the next 30 years are projected to drive federal debt held by the public to unprecedented levels—from 78 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019 to 144 percent by 2049.
The history of the United States public debt started with federal government debt incurred during the American Revolutionary War by the first U.S treasurer, Michael Hillegas, after its formation in 1789. The United States has continuously had a fluctuating public debt since then, except for about a year during 1835–1836. To allow comparisons over the years, public debt is often expressed as a ratio to gross domestic product (GDP). Historically, the United States public debt as a share of GDP has increased during wars and recessions, and subsequently declined.
The Australian government debt is the amount owed by the Australian federal government. The Australian Office of Financial Management, which is part of the Treasury Portfolio, is the agency which manages the government debt and does all the borrowing on behalf of the Australian government. Australian government borrowings are subject to limits and regulation by the Loan Council, unless the borrowing is for defence purposes or is a 'temporary' borrowing. Government debt and borrowings have national macroeconomic implications, and are also used as one of the tools available to the national government in the macroeconomic management of the national economy, enabling the government to create or dampen liquidity in financial markets, with flow on effects on the wider economy.
The 2012 United States federal budget was the budget to fund government operations for the fiscal year 2012, which lasted from October 1, 2011 through September 30, 2012. The original spending request was issued by President Barack Obama in February 2011. That April, the Republican-held House of Representatives announced a competing plan, The Path to Prosperity, emboldened by a major victory in the 2010 Congressional elections associated with the Tea Party movement. The budget plans were both intended to focus on deficit reduction, but differed in their changes to taxation, entitlement programs, defense spending, and research funding.
The United States federal budget consists of mandatory expenditures, discretionary spending for defense, Cabinet departments and agencies, and interest payments on debt. This is currently over half of U.S. government spending, the remainder coming from state and local governments.
The United States debt ceiling or debt limit is a legislative limit on the amount of national debt that can be incurred by the U.S. Treasury, thus limiting how much money the federal government may borrow. The debt ceiling is an aggregate figure that applies to the gross debt, which includes debt in the hands of the public and in intra-government accounts. Because expenditures are authorized by separate legislation, the debt ceiling does not directly limit government deficits. In effect, it can only restrain the Treasury from paying for expenditures and other financial obligations after the limit has been reached, but which have already been approved and appropriated.
The United States debt-ceiling crisis of 2011 was a stage in the ongoing political debate in the United States Congress about the appropriate level of government spending and its effect on the national debt and deficit. The debate centered around the raising of the debt ceiling, which is normally raised without debate. The crisis led to the passage of the Budget Control Act of 2011.
In the United States, Public Debt Acts are Acts of Congress which set the debt ceiling on the National debt of the United States.
The Budget Control Act of 2011 is a federal statute enacted by the 112th United States Congress and signed into law by US President Barack Obama on August 2, 2011. The Act brought conclusion to the 2011 US debt-ceiling crisis.
Political debates about the United States federal budget discusses some of the more significant U.S. budgetary debates of the 21st century. These include the causes of debt increases, the impact of tax cuts, specific events such as the United States fiscal cliff, the effectiveness of stimulus, and the impact of the Great Recession, among others. The article explains how to analyze the U.S. budget as well as the competing economic schools of thought that support the budgetary positions of the major parties.
Deficit reduction in the United States refers to taxation, spending, and economic policy debates and proposals designed to reduce the Federal budget deficit. Government agencies including the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB),and the U.S. Treasury Department have reported that the federal government is facing a series of important long-run financing challenges, mainly driven by an aging population, rising healthcare costs per person, and rising interest payments on the national debt.
The United States fiscal cliff was a situation that took place in January 2013 when several previously-enacted laws came into effect simultaneously, increasing taxes and decreasing spending.
The trillion-dollar coin is a concept that emerged during the United States debt-ceiling crisis in 2011, as a proposed way to bypass any necessity for the United States Congress to raise the country's borrowing limit, through the minting of very high-value platinum coins. The concept gained more mainstream attention by late 2012 during the debates over the United States fiscal cliff negotiations and renewed debt-ceiling discussions. After reaching the headlines during the week of January 7, 2013, use of the trillion dollar coin concept was ultimately rejected by the Federal Reserve and the Treasury..
The No Budget, No Pay Act of 2013 is a law passed during the 113th United States Congress. The Act temporarily suspended the US debt ceiling from February 4 to May 18, 2013. It also placed temporary restrictions on Congressional salaries.
The 2013 United States debt-ceiling crisis centered on the raising of the federal government debt ceiling, and is part of an ongoing political debate in the United States Congress about federal government spending and the national debt. The crisis began in January 2013, when the United States reached the debt ceiling of $16.394 trillion that had been enacted following the debt ceiling crisis of 2011.
The Temporary Debt Limit Extension Act is a bill that would suspend the United States debt ceiling until March 15, 2015. There would be no statutory limit on the amount of money the government is allowed to borrow between now and then. The current cap on borrowing is $17.2 trillion.