As of mid-afternoon Monday, the national debt stood at $12.6 trillion, up about 20 percent in the 14 months since President Obama took office. The Congressional Budget Office said last week that it is headed for $20 trillion by the year 2020.
But those staggering numbers are not the worst of it, because they don't count the trillions more that have been promised to Medicare and Social Security recipients which the government has no way to pay for. Those benefits add up to more than $106 trillion.
Last week, Social Security reported for the first time that it is now paying out more than it is taking in, which suggests that the fiscal chickens are already starting to come home to roost.
The government has been able to run large deficits over the years, because rapid economic growth has enabled the country, like a family whose income is growing, to carry more and more debt. But no one thinks the U.S. economy, even if the economy fully recovers, can handle these levels of debt.
Indeed, it's not clear that the economy can fully recover given these levels of debt.
Politicians have nibbled at this problem in the past with some spending cuts and tax hikes, but the core issue is the staggering growth of government benefits.
The problem cannot be solved without major retrenchments in such entitlements. Now Congress and the president have created a new health entitlement. They say it will cut costs. The public doesn't believe it and with good reason.
— Brit Hume is the senior political analyst for Fox News Channel.