It will be the latest sobering economic milestone that few were hoping to see: The U.S. national debt – any day now – will soar above the $15 trillion mark.
As of this writing, the total debt is $14.97 trillion, so moving beyond the symbolic $15 trillion is a foregone conclusion. When the unwelcome milestone is reached, it will come at a volatile time both in this country and abroad.
Across the Atlantic, President Obama is in Cannes, France, for the G-20 summit that takes place as Europe is trying to finalize a bailout for debt-ridden Greece.
Back on the home front, Obama is preparing for a difficult re-election fight next year. Republican candidates from Mitt Romney to Herman Cain have pounced on the country’s economic woes in their bids to win the GOP nomination and the chance to oppose Obama. Meanwhile, the Occupy Wall Street protests directed at the nation’s financial inequalities continue to rage across the country.
In Washington, a polarized Congress has ground to a halt in the dispute on how to jumpstart the economy and reduce the country’s deficits. Only a few months ago, the acrimonious debate on Capitol Hill about raising the debt ceiling – a debate that almost caused the Treasury Department to default on its debts – illustrated the enormous partisan divide that still shows no signs of improving.
The approaching $15 trillion debt milestone is not even the only piece of bad economic news for the country. The jobs report for October – released this morning – showed that U.S. employers added an estimated 80,000 jobs to their payrolls last month, worse than economists expected. The unemployment rate decreased to 9.0 percent, down from 9.1 percent a month earlier, small consolation for a nation still struggling to recover from a severe recession.