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U.S. President Barack Obama has asked the U.S. Congress to raise the nation’s debt ceiling by $1.2 trillion – the third installment of the “debt dereliction deal” that was reached five months ago.

That agreement called for $2.4 trillion in new deficit spending over a seventeen-month period – which would be offset by roughly the same amount in spending cuts over a ten-year period. Amazingly, 174 Republicans and 95 Democrats supported this controversial measure, while 95 Democrats and 66 Republicans (including the entire South Carolina Republican delegation) voted against the deal.

At the time, fiscal conservatives in the U.S. House offered a much stronger debt ceiling proposal – dubbed “cut cap and balance” – which included spending caps as well as a balanced budget amendment requirement. While we wish that this proposal had included more immediate cuts, its “cap and balance” provisions would have enforced some real fiscal discipline on Washington, D.C. for the first time in decades.

Unfortunately, after passing the House the proposal was blocked in the U.S. Senate – which hasn’t passed a budget in more than 950 days.

The national debt is currently $15.1 trillion – or $134,482 for every American taxpayer. It is expected to climb to $16.4 trillion by December 2012 – the fifth consecutive calendar year in which the federal government has spent at least $1 trillion more than it has collected in revenues.

To put those numbers in comparison, five years ago the annual deficit was just $160 billion. Ten years ago, there was a surplus.