This guest column in the Billings Gazette was written by Paul Hansen, western states regional director for The Concord...
The national debt has grown significantly in recent years due to rising annual deficits. A deficit occurs in any year the government spends more money than it takes in. Borrowing to make up the difference is added to the national debt -- technically referred to as the gross federal debt.
The gross debt has two components: 1) Debt held by the public -- money the government borrows on the open market from domestic or foreign investors; and 2) Intra-governmental debt -- money the government owes itself, as in the Social Security trust fund.