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Why Does TreasuryDirect.gov Show That Our Total Public Debt is Higher Than the Debt Ceiling?

Treasurydirect.gov has a feature called, “The Debt to the Penny and Who Holds It”. It is a government website, typically dealing with items such as savings bonds, and is separate from Treasury.gov. It shows some interesting data regarding the current debt:

Current Debt
10/15/2013

Held by the Public
11,926,495,975,191.95

Intragovernmental Holdings
4,820,874,558,898.67

Total Public Debt Outstanding
16,747,370,534,090.62

Here we see that this history feature shows a public debt number that is different from the US Treasury daily reports (which haven’t moved in 150 days) The current amount of total public debt outstanding is a sum higher than the Statutory Debt Limit of $16,699,421,000,000.

Just to make sure that the history feature worked, I did a search from October 14, 2013 – October 15, 2013. It gave these results:

10/11/2013
16,747,411,584,091.53

10/15/2013
16,747,370,534,090.62

The search feature does work, and even shows the increased change from the two days.

To make sure the definitions were correct, TreasuryDirect.gov offers the following explanations:

What’s the difference between the Public Debt Outstanding and the Public Debt Subject to Limit?

The Public Debt Outstanding represents the face amount or principal amount of marketable and non-marketable securities currently outstanding. The Public Debt Subject to Limit is the maximum amount of money the Government is allowed to borrow without receiving additional authority from Congress. Furthermore, the Public Debt Subject to Limit is the Public Debt Outstanding adjusted for Unamortized Discount on Treasury Bills and Zero Coupon Treasury Bonds, Miscellaneous debt (very old debt), Debt held by the Federal Financing Bank and Guaranteed Debt.

So, we have a Public Debt Outstanding that is higher than the current Statutory Limit because it is “adjusted”?

At the same time, our Public Debt Subject to Limit has remained frozen at $25 million under the Debt Ceiling for 152 days.

Why can numbers be adjusted and frozen willy-nilly, so that taxpayers — who fund the government(!) — can’t get a true picture of their money? What numbers are true anymore? What numbers do Congress have to work with while they strut and fret their hour upon the stage over the “debt ceiling”? We the People have none.

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