WASHINGTON, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- The national debt is as big as all of the U.S. economy, topping $15.23 trillion, estimates indicated. An analyst said there's a "grave need" to fix the problem.
The government estimated the value of goods and services produced by the U.S. economy in a year at $15.17 trillion as of September and private projections indicated the economy grew to about $15.3 trillion by December, which the debt likely will surpass this month, USA Today reported Monday.
"The 100 percent mark means that your entire debt is as big as everything you're producing in your country," said Steve Bell of the Bipartisan Policy Center, which has proposed cutting nearly $6 trillion over 10 years. "Clearly, that can't continue."
Long-term projections indicate the debt will grow faster than the economy, which would have to expand by at least 6 percent annually to keep up, economists told USA Today.
The Brookings Institution's William Gale is among economists who say a better measure of the national debt is how much the government owes creditors, excluding the $4.7 trillion owed to future Social Security recipients and other government beneficiaries, USA Today said. Under this scenario, the debt is about $10.5 trillion, or about 70 percent the size of the economy.
In August, the White House and Congress agreed to cut about $1 trillion from federal agencies over 10 years. An additional $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts looms beginning next year if lawmakers can't agree on a way to do it.
Moody's Analytics economist Mark Zandi said reaching the 100 percent mark shows "the grave need to address our long-term fiscal problems."