As the Government tries to borrow its way out of recession - in order to bail out the banks and cover spiralling benefit payments - the UK's national debt has risen to almost £830bn, equivalent to nigh on 60% of national GDP. But our fiscal mess is only going to get worse: according to the Treasury's latest forecasts, debt will balloon to nearly £1.5trn by 2014. That's about 78% of GDP, the highest figure since the end of the second world war.
Indeed, some argue that the situation is even worse than this, since the current total doesn't fully account for PFI deals and public-sector pensions. And bond investors are getting spooked by the Government's apparent refusal to address the problem. Credit ratings agencies warn that a downgrade may follow unless we come up with a credible repayment plan fast.
When Labour came to power in 1997, chancellor Gordon Brown introduced a 'sustainable investment' rule: our debt should never exceed 40% of GDP. But after dropping to 29% in 2002, it has climbed ever since. So, in the decade to 2015, we'll have added about £1trn to the national debt. Prudence has left the building.