WASHINGTON — The U.S. national debt shot up $339.1 billion Tuesday — the largest daily increase in the national debt in history, according to Treasury Department data.
The increase is largely a matter of accounting, in that the Treasury Department had been using "extraordinary measures" to artificially hold the total U.S. debt under the debt limit imposed by Congress. So on paper, the national debt had been frozen at $18.1 trillion since March, as the Treasury instead deferred payments to pension funds and borrowed from reserve accounts in order to keep the government running.
But once President Obama signed a suspension of the debt limit into law on Monday, the Treasury Department was able to borrow new money for spending Congress had already authorized — averting a potential debt crisis as its accounting measures began to run out.
The previous records for one-day increases in the national debt have all come under similar circumstances:A $328.2 billion increase after the government shutdown ended on Oct. 17, 2013, and a $238.3 billion increase the day after Obama signed the Budget Control Act into law on Aug. 2, 2011.
The debt rose again by $40 billion Wednesday, the Treasury Department reported, and now stands at more than $18.5 trillion.
Or $18,532,338,091,711.40, to be exact.