Debt Hits $12 Trillion

This week, the gross national debt hit a record $12.031 trillion. Gross debt is a broad measure which includes both debt held by the public (currently at $7.6 trillion), and intergovernmental holdings which the government owes to itself through various trust funds -- chiefly Social Security.

Although similar, this measure is slighlty different from debt subject to the limit, which currently stands at $11.975 trillion. Some time next month, that number is likely to exceed the current statutory debt limit of $12.104 trillion, requiring it to be raised in order to avoid a debt crisis.

The debt has risen precipitously over the last year, as lower revenue due to the recession has combined with significant new spending on stimulus and financial rescue efforts.