Jeff Jacoby

THE TREASURY DEPARTMENT reported last week that the national debt had surpassed $15 trillion, clocking in at precisely $15,033,607,255,920.32 as of the close of business Tuesday. Since President Obama's inauguration in January 2009, the amount owed by the federal government to its lenders has soared more than $4.4 trillion, an increase of 41 percent in less than three years.

To put those figures in perspective, consider these:

When Bill Clinton was president, the national debt rose by an annual average of $193 billion. When the profligate George W. Bush was in the White House, the yearly debt increases averaged $612 billion. On Obama's watch, by contrast, the federal debt has been skyrocketing by more than $1.5 trillion per year.

It took 40 presidents and nearly two centuries,from George Washington to Ronald Reagan, for the US government to accumulate $1.5 trillion in indebtedness. The 44th president -- aided and abetted by Congress -- enlarges the federal debt by that amount every 12 months.

Yet the political class has its knickers in a twist because the much-vaunted "supercommittee" has only until Thanksgiving to come up a plan for trimming the deficit by $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years.

Washington's refusal to take spending reduction seriously amounts to an almost criminal abdication of its responsibilities to the taxpayers, and politicians of both parties share in the guilt. As a candidate for president in 2008, Barack Obama properly blasted what was then a $9 trillion national debt as "irresponsible" and "unpatriotic." Just weeks after moving into the White House, he vowed that by the end of his first term he would cut the $1.3 trillion federal budget deficit in half.

"We cannot simply spend as we please and defer the consequences to the next budget, the next administration, or the next generation," Obama told a White House summit on fiscal responsibility. "You don't spend what you don't have."


Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby is an Op-Ed writer for the Boston Globe, a radio political commentator, and a contributing columnist for Townhall.com.