Light Wave


Runaway debt - now at $33 trillion - fundamental threat to U.S.

By CM Chaney · September 19, 2023

In brief…

  • The U.S. national debt has topped $33 trillion for the first time - a massive rise from $907 billion 40 years ago.
  • Short-term projections show the debt nearly doubling over the next 30 years to 181% of GDP, far exceeding any previous level and posing major economic risks.
  • Rapidly rising interest rates are adding substantially to borrowing costs, with interest payments on the debt projected to surge from $475 billion in 2023 to more than $5 trillion by 2053, exceeding all other mandatory program spending.
The U.S. national debt has hit a record $33 trillion and is projected to nearly double over the next 30 years, driven in part by rising interest costs.  Valugi/Wikimedia

The United States’ national debt has hit an all-time high, surpassing $33 trillion for the first time ever.

The debt stood at $33.04 trillion as of Monday, according to data from the US Treasury Department, a staggering increase from $907 billion 40 years ago. Experts say this growing debt burden poses significant risks to the U.S. government and economy.

“The United States has hit a new milestone that no one will be proud of: our gross national debt just surpassed $33 trillion,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

The debt debacle comes as Congress races to avoid a government shutdown later this month. House Republicans recently unveiled a short-term funding bill, but it faces opposition.

“As lawmakers drift from one short-term fiscal crisis to the next, our national debt just keeps piling up, trillion after trillion,” said Michael Peterson of the non-partisan Peter G. Peterson Foundation.

Long-term projections from the Congressional Budget Office show the national debt nearly doubling over the next 30 years, surging to 181% of the GDP by 2053, far exceeding any previous level.

Rapidly rising interest rates are also increasing borrowing costs for the federal government. Interest payments on the debt are projected to triple in the next decade and surge to over $5 trillion by 2053, more than all other mandatory programs combined.

Peterson warned that “with more than $10 trillion of interest costs over the next decade, this compounding fiscal cycle will only continue to do damage.”

Unless decisive actions are taken, experts say, the unsustainable debt poses major risks to economic growth and the country’s long-term fiscal health.