NPR logo Just a Quick $9 Trillion... Honest, It's the Last Time

Just a Quick $9 Trillion... Honest, It's the Last Time

The Senate is expected to pass a resolution Friday that would raise the debt ceiling (the amount of money the government can borrow) by $781 billion to almost $9 trillion. Bear with me boys and girls, but that is a whole lot of cash.

Just spoke with Ron Elving, our senior Washington editor, and he broke it down for me. First, the debt is now 67.5% of the gross domestic product (basically that's the whole economy — it's a little more complex than that, but let's leave it there). The last time the debt percentage was that high was in 1955, when we were still paying off war bonds from WWII and Korea.

Now, what I find funny about this whole thing is that the House doesn't have to vote on this. It got smart a few years back and made raising the debt ceiling automatic. The Senate doesn't have that machinery so they knew they would have to vote on this. But like any sensible group of people, they'll put it off until the last possible moment.

It's the fourth time in the past five years the Senate has waited until the 11th hour. And every time this happens, no matter whether the Dems or the Republicans are in charge, the leadership has to get out there, twist a few arms and get the votes to pass it. Everyone knows it will pass, but there are always a few who will vote against it on principle... or at least to make themselves look good.

The best part, though, is some of the amendments the Senate is tossing around, like the line-item veto, that would give the president the power to reign in all this crazy spending... spending, of course, they're voting for in the first place. And, just to put another deadline on it, if they do pass any amendments on it, the House will have to vote on those, and they want to leave town tomorrow night.

But rest easy, the U.S. won't default on its debt and collectors aren't going to be knocking on your door for your share. Just remember though, $9 trillion is a really big number. And that's just for this year. Sleep well.