National debt reaches $16 trillion as Dems begin their convention

The gross debt of the United States has reached $16 trillion, the Treasury Department announced Tuesday on the first day of the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

The Daily Treasury Statement puts the debt at $16.016 trillion, a new record. 

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Republicans have made the debt the centerpiece of their campaign to unseat President Obama, arguing that under Obama the debt has risen more than under any previous president. They put up two giant debt clocks last week at their convention in Tampa, Fla., to tally the red ink. 

Republicans pounced on the new $16 trillion figure to make the case for electing Mitt Romney to the White House. They point out that the gross debt has risen $5.4 trillion since President Obama took office.

“Today’s news is another sad reminder of President Obama’s broken promise to cut the deficit in half. Instead of working in a bipartisan way to fulfill his promise, the president went on a ‘stimulus’-fueled spending binge that stuck every American man, woman, and child with a $50,000 share of this $16 trillion national debt,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said. 

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, said the the failure of Democrats to address the growing debt shows they have that "no basis on which to ask to be kept in their majority."

"The nation is in desperate need of strong executive leadership to end the financial chaos, restore discipline to government, and lead us to an economic renaissance,” Sessions said in a statement.

He noted that Democrats have not passed a budget resolution for the last three years. While Obama has proposed a budget, Sessions argues that it does not do enough to address the problem.

“Today, the United States passed a new unfortunate threshold which should be a call to action for Washington to finally address the potentially debilitating challenges posed by our unsustainable deficits and debt, which is now over 100 percent of our nation’s gross domestic product,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.).

The House has for two years passed a budget that would deeply cut spending without raising taxes. Obama has argued that this budget, authored by GOP vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), would decimate the social safety net and investments in infrastructure.

Democrats also counter that a decade ago, America was running budget surpluses and was on the way to pay down the debt. They blame President George W. Bush for cutting taxes on the wealthy, for launching the war in Iraq without paying for it and for enacting Medicare drug coverage without paying for it.