This chart by the Heritage Foundation offers a great deal of information about the history of changes in the debt limit–which, of course, tracks closely with the history of growing federal debt. You can see at a glance how the skyrocketing debt of the last few years smashes all historical precedent:
The chart also responds implicitly to some recent Democratic Party talking points. The Democrats like to point out that the ceiling was raised 18 times during the Reagan administration. That’s right, an average of about once every six months. In other words, those increases were small and highly temporary, as you can see from the chart. It is also noteworthy that the total increase in the debt ceiling during the Reagan years was almost exactly equal to the increase in the debt ceiling during the Clinton administration. Neither, however, is in the same universe with the spiraling debt the Democrats have racked up since they took control of Congress in 2007.