Just in time for another budget-related showdown this week, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has provided a user-friendly chart with highlights of federal borrowing, spending and debt.
The one-pager has just enough details to keep policy wonks pleased but not so much that eyes glaze over. It can be found here.
Congress is about to enter a busy week on the budget front as it prepares to pass a spending bill to keep the government running for the rest of the 2012 fiscal year and tries to find compromise over President Obama's proposal to extend a payroll tax holiday for 160 million American workers.
One part of the chart sure to capture attention: that bright yellow bar that shows public-held U.S. debt at 67% of the nation's gross domestic product for 2011, "the highest level in the past 40 years."
Debt has been at record levels for a combination of reasons – federal spending to prop up the economy during the recession, lower tax revenues because of the economic downturn. But such nuances often become lost in the heat of partisan battles – such as those ahead.