The Treasury Department said Tuesday that the federal government has now officially topped $16 trillion in debt.
The announcement, which came just an hour before Democrats gaveled in their convention in Charlotte, N.C., to renominate President Obama for another four-year term, immediately boosted the government’s grim fiscal picture back to the fore of the national debate.
Debt has risen at a meteoric pace under Mr. Obama — in less than four years in office he has already eclipsed President George W. Bush’s eight years. His advisors say he has a “plausible” plan to stabilize the debt, but defend his spending plans, saying to withdraw government stimulus now would hurt the economic recovery.
Tuesday’s numbers reflect where debt stood as of close of business Friday, which was the previous business day.
The government had closed Thursday with gross debt at $15.991 trillion, but that jumped to $16.016 trillion on Friday after a round of debt auctions.
About 30 percent of the gross debt is intragovernmental transfers, such as borrowing from Social Security’s trust fund. The rest is debt owed to other creditors, which is the measure most economists say captures the country’s fiscal position.
Known as debt held by the public, that stood at $11.273 trillion as of Friday. That’s a jump of nearly $60 billion in one day.
Republicans were quick to seize on the number, saying blame lies at the feet of Mr. Obama.
“Instead of working in a bipartisan way to fulfill his promise, the president went on a ‘stimulus’-fueled spending binge that stuck every American man, woman, and child with a $50,000 share of this $16 trillion national debt,” said House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican. “This debt is a drain on our economy and a crushing burden on our kids and grandkids, and it’s yet another indication that the president’s policies have made things worse.”