WASHINGTON, Nov 16, 2011 (AFP) - President Barack Obama's Republican foes pounced Wednesday on news the US national debt passed $15 trillion for the first time to assail his economic policies one year from November 2012 elections.
Republican House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan said on his official Twitter feed that the figure "marks an infamous day in US history. You deserve leaders willing to tackle this problem."
Texas Governor Rick Perry, a candidate for the Republican nomination to take on Obama next year, took to Twitter to blame "Obama's socialist policies" for "bankrupting" the country, and declared it was "time to overhaul Washington."
"This astounding debt is a heavy pair of cement shoes for our children and America's economic future," he added in a statement.
Another Republican presidential hopeful, Michele Bachmann, compared the country to a boat heading towards a waterfall.
"If you've ever been in Niagara Falls, there's a river that feeds into Niagara Falls, (and) there's a certain point when you're in a boat where the current has taken you and you can't get out any more, you're going to go over the Niagara Falls.
"That's the point that we're coming to in the United States" because of the debt, said Bachmann.
Her solution: "You've got to stop spending, you've got to stop the welfare state," she told a meeting with prominent Republicans while campaigning in the mid-western state of Iowa.
"America has crossed an unthinkable threshold: our national debt now exceeds $15 trillion. That's more than $48,000 per citizen," scolded Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.
"This massive debt slows our economy and damages our credit rating. America cannot afford another four years of this president and the Democrats' reckless spending," he added in a statement.
Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, one of Obama's fiercest critics, did not immediately comment on the news, though he recently quipped: "Look, we have a debt the size of our economy. That alone makes us look a lot like Greece."
But his office put out a statement that pointed out the national debt was $10.62 trillion when Obama took office, and $14.304 trillion when the president vowed "I believe we can live within our means" in April 2011.
None of the Republicans commenting referred to the 2007-2008 economic crisis under Republican president George W. Bush, which independent analysts say is the primary driver of the galloping US debt.
They also skipped mentioning that Bush's vast 2001 and 2003 tax cuts -- which Obama renewed in late 2010 -- as well as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq -- which Obama has vowed to wind down -- are among the other top factors.
That was roughly equal to 99 percent of the size of the total US economy projected for 2011, a level normally seen as very unhealthy by economists.
Government debt has steadily climbed since August 2, when Congress broke a months-long deadlock and agreed to raise the country's official debt ceiling, which previously stood at $14.3 trillion.