U.S. National Debt Passes $22 Trillion for First Time in History

The United States national debt zoomed past the $22 trillion mark on Tuesday for the first time in history.

The Treasury Department released data that showed a total outstanding debt of $22.013 trillion. A number of factors played into the soaring debt, including the Republican tax-overhaul law that cut $1.5 trillion in federal revenue, spending increases, the coffers to pay Social Security and Medicare and the interest on other loans taken.

The leaders of Campaign to Fix the Debt, a watchdog group, said the new debt total showed an unquestionable burden that would sit on the shoulders of the next generation.

"This milestone is another sad reminder of the inexcusable tab our nation's leaders continue to run up and will leave for the next generation," said the group's co-chairmen Judd Gregg and Edward Rendell in this report from The Hill.

With the current rate of government spending and income, the debt should increase by at least $1 trillion every year starting in 2020, according to the Congressional Budget Office's projections. The CBO said that by 2025, the debt would be more than defense spending alone, according to The Hill.

Michael A. Peterson, who's CEO of the budget watchdog group Peter G. Peterson Foundation, said compounding interest on the debt would affect all Americans.

"Our growing national debt matters because it threatens the economic future of every American," Peterson told The Hill. "As we borrow trillion after trillion, interest costs will weigh on our economy and make it harder to fund important investments for our future. We already pay an average of $1 billion every day in interest on the debt, and will spend a staggering $7 trillion in interest costs over the next decade."

Within the next five years, about 70 percent of the debt will need to be refinanced after reaching maturity.

Another budget watchdog group, Responsible Federal Budget, stated that interest payments could eventually become the top spending item in the federal budget. That means spending more on interest than national defense, education and health care.

"The fact that interest is the fastest growing part of the budget and is on track to eclipse other important pieces of the budget—for instance, spending on children—is going to cause more hesitation just to charge every single item," Maya MacGuineas, of Responsible Federal Budget, told The Wall Street Journal.

The CBO said the federal government could wind up spending more money on debt interest by 2025 than every nondefense program altogether.