70 Straight Days: Treasury Says Debt Stuck at Exactly $16,699,396,000,000.00

July 29, 2013 - 5:21 PM
Jack Lew, Barack Obama

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Barack Obama (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

(CNSNews.com) - According to the Daily Treasury Statement for July 26, which the Treasury released this afternoon, the federal debt has been stuck at exactly $16,699,396,000,000.00 for 70 straight days.

That is approximately $25 million below the legal limit of $16,699,421,095,673.60 that Congress has imposed on the debt.

The portion of the federal debt subject to the legal limit set by Congress first hit $16,699,396,000,000.00 at the close of business on May 17. At the close of every business day since then, it has also been $16,699,396,000,000.00, according to the official accounting published by the Treasury Department.

If the debt had increased by even $30 million at any time during those 70 days, it would have exceeded the statutory limit. But, according to the Treasury, the debt did not do that. Instead, it remained precisely $16,699,396,000,000.00.

Even though the government's official accounting of the debt has not budged for 70 days, the Treasury has continued to sell bills, notes and bonds at a value that exceeds the value of the bills, notes and bonds it was redeeming.

In fact, according to the Daily Treasury Statement for May 17, the Treasury had by then already redeemed approximately $4,776,995,000,000.00 since the beginning of the fiscal year (which started on Oct. 1, 2012). As of that same day, the Treasury had already sold $5,354,508,000.000.00 new bills, notes and bonds during the fiscal year. That represented a net increase in publicly circulating U.S. government debt instruments of $577,513,000,000.00 for the fiscal year.

As of July 26, according to the latest Treasury statement, the Treasury had already redeemed approximately $6,128,368,000,000.00 in bills, notes and bonds during this fiscal year. But, at the same time, according to the statement, the Treasury had sold an additional $6,759,148,000,000.00 bills, note and bonds--for a net increase of $630,780,000,000.00 for the year.

Thus, the value of U.S. Treasury debt instruments circulating in the public has increased $53.267 billion since May 17--even though the Treasury says the debt has remained exactly at $16,699,396,000,000.00 during that time.

How could the value of extant U.S. Treasury securities increase by $53.267 billion during a 70-day period when the federal government’s debt subject to the legal limit has remained constant at $16,699,396,000,000.00—just $25 million below the legal limit?

On May 17, the day the debt began its long stay at $16,699,396,000,000.00, Treasury Secretary Lew sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner. In the letter, Lew said the Treasury would begin implementing what he called “the standard set of extraordinary measures” that allows the Treasury to continue to borrow and spend money even after it has hit the legal debt limit.