The $64,000 Question: How Much Has Debt Increased Per Taxpayer Under Obama?

Terence P. Jeffrey | July 12, 2012 | 12:21pm EDT
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President Barack Obama, flanked by Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner, on Sept. 8, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

( - The national debt has now increased by more than $64,000 per federal taxpayer since Barack Obama was inaugurated president.

At the close of business on Jan. 20, 2009, according to the U.S. Treasury, the total debt of the federal government was $10,626,877,048,913.08. By the close of business on July 10, 2012, that debt had climbed to $15,885,854,755,351.47—an increase of $5,258,977,706,438.39.

In “Statistics of Income—2009 Individual Income Tax Returns,” which was published this year and is the Internal Revenue Service’s most recent statistical report on individual income tax data, the IRS reported that there were 81,890,189 tax returns filed in 2009 that reported taxable income.

If each of these 81,890,189 federal taxpayers were given responsibility for paying off an equal share of the new federal debt added since Obama was inaugurated, they would each need to pay about $64,219.88.

If each of these 81,890,189 federal taxpayers were given responsibility for paying off an equal share of the entire federal debt of $15,885,854,755,351.47, they would each need to pay about $193,989.72

A Republican majority was elected to the House of Representatives in November 2010 and took office in January 2011. Because the previous Congress had passed a continuing resolution that kept the federal government funded until March 4, 2011, the Republican-majority House did not gain legislative responsibility over federal spending until that date. Article 1, Section 9, Clause 7 of the Constitution says: “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.” A law appropriating money cannot be enacted unless it is approved by the House.

Since the Republican-majority in the House effectively gained its constitutional veto over federal spending, the federal government has been funded under a series of spending deals negotiated between the House Republican leadership, the Senate Democratic leadership and President Obama.

At the close of business on March 4, 2011, when the first spending deal approved by the Republican House leaders took effect, the total debt of the federal government was $14,182,627,184,881.03. Since then, it has increased by $1,703,227,570,470.44.

That $1,703,227,570,470.44 increase in the debt while the Republican-majority House had responsibility for spending bills equals $20,798.92 for each of the 81,890,189 taxpayers who paid federal taxes in 2009.

The median household income in the United States in 2009, according to the Census Bureau, was $49,777. That means the median household would have needed to work all of one year and then the first 106 days of another year and then give all of their earnings from that time period to the federal government just to pay off the $64,219.88 in new federal debt per taxpayer piled up since Obama’s inauguration.

To pay off the federal government’s total debt of $193,989.72 per taxpayer, the median household making $49,777 in 2009 would need to give the government all of its earnings for a period of almost four years (3.897 years).

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