About the issue: Debt

The Associated Press
Associated Press

A sea of red ink is confronting the nation and presidents to come.

The budget deficit — the shortfall created when the government spends more in a given year than it collects — is on track to top $1 trillion for the fourth straight year. The government borrows about 40 cents for every dollar it spends.

The national debt is the total amount the federal government owes. It's risen to a shade over $16 trillion.

There's widespread agreement that something must be done. One big question is whether to slow spending gradually, to avoid suddenly tipping the economy back into recession, or to impose steep spending cuts right away because the problem is so severe. And how should tax revenue fit into the mix?