Article Photos: WHY IT MATTERS: Issues at stake in election 3/40

  George Washington presents himself at head of army at Cambridge, Mass., on July 3, 1775. From Dorchester Heights, he laid siege to British in Boston. Latter evacuated city following March, taking garrison of 8,000 to New York. The U.S. has been borrowing since the 1700s, when it needed money to finance the American Revolution. The outstanding debt has since risen to a shade over $16 trillion. While there's plenty of finger-pointing by politicians over who's to blame, deficits historically surge during wars and deep recessions, and the U.S. has had both over the past decade. The budget deficit _ the shortfall created when the government spends more in a given year than it collects in taxes and fees_ is on track to top $1 trillion for the fourth straight year. When there's not enough to pay current bills, the government borrows, mostly by selling interest-bearing Treasury bonds, bills and notes to investors and governments worldwide. It now borrows about 40 cents for every dollar it spends. The national debt refers to the total amount the federal government owes; the deficit is just a one-year slice. (AP Photo)