I Can Break Your Debt Limit Any Time I Like (But Not Today)

Marla Singer's picture

Those of you shocked to see the official Treasury Direct debt ticker break the statutory debt limit number of $12.104 trillion may have overlooked a clever loophole. See, the debt limit doesn't limit total public debt. It limits the "total public debt (subject to limit)."

While the former figure did indeed finally break the ceiling on 11/30/2009, the latter is still comfortably (sort of) below the statutory limit.

Total Public Debt              11/30/09

Outstanding                  12,113,048
Less:
Debt Not Subject to Limit:
Other Debt                          489
Unamortized Discount             42,797
Federal Financing Bank           11,921
Hope Bonds (HAH!)                   492
Plus:
Other Debt Subject to Limit
Guaranteed Debt of:
Government Agencies                  14
Total Public Debt
Subject to Limit             12,057,363
Statutory Debt Limit         12,104,000

Phew, close one! You can see the details here.  (Who wants to bet on the size of the "Federal Financing Bank"'s balance sheet in a week?)