1. The U.S. national debt on Jan. 1, 1791, was just $75 million dollars. Today, the U.S. national debt rises by that amount about once an hour.
2. Our nation began its existence in debt after borrowing money to finance the Revolutionary War. President Andrew Jackson nearly eliminated the debt, calling it a "national curse." Jackson railed against borrowing, spending and even banks, for that matter, and he tried to eliminate all federal debt. By Jan. 1, 1835, under Jackson, the debt was just $33,733.
3. When World War II ended, the debt equaled 122 percent of GDP (GDP is a measure of the entire economy). In the 1950s and 1960s, the economy grew at an average rate of 4.3 percent a year and the debt gradually declined to 38 percent of GDP in 1970. This year, the Office of Budget and Management expects that the debt will equal nearly 100 percent of GDP.
4. Since 1938, the national debt has increased at an average annual rate of 8.5 percent. The only exceptions to the constant annual increase over the last 62 years were during the administrations of Clinton and Johnson. (Note that this is the rate of growth; the national debt still existed under both presidents.) During the Clinton presidency, debt growth was almost zero. Johnson averaged 3 percent growth of debt for the six years he served (1963-69).
5. When Ronald Reagan took office, the U.S. national debt was just under $1 trillion. When he left office, it was $2.6 trillion. During the eight Regan years, the US moved from being the world's largest international creditor to the largest debtor nation.
6. The U.S. national debt has more than doubled since the year 2000.
- Under President Bush: At the end of calendar year 2000, the debt stood at $5.629 trillion. Eight years later, the federal debt stood at $9.986 trillion.
- Under President Obama: The debt started at $9.986 trillion and escalated to $15.3 trillion, a 53 percent increase over three years.
8. The U.S. national debt rises at an average of approximately $3.8 billion per day.
9. The US government now borrows approximately $5 billion every business day.
10. A trillion $10 bills, if they were taped end to end, would wrap around the globe more than 380 times. That amount of money would still not be enough to pay off the U.S. national debt.
11. The debt ceiling is the maximum amount of debt that Congress allows for the government. The current debt ceiling is $16.394 trillion effective Jan. 30, 2012.
12. The U.S. government has to borrow 43 cents of every dollar that it currently spends, four times the rate in 1980.