As pointed out by Eric in a comment to my previous post, when Bill Clinton left office we were paying down the debt and would have had it paid off on a couple of years. But, the Bush tax cuts and wars exploded the deficit. And now it's allegedly the big issue. But it's a trick.
See, as soon as the Democrats get the economy and budget in good enough shape to generate some surplus to pay on the debt, Republicans wills squeal for tax cuts saying the government is taking too much of taxpayer money. Given the Republican political philosophy we will never pay down the debt. The ONLY way it will reduce will be a a percent of GDP. When Democrats grow the economy (and we know Republicans won't; look at history) it will make the current level of debt smaller in proportion to the whole.
Complaining about reducing the debt/deficit is really just code language for cutting government spending. Cutting spending might reduce annual deficits, but it won't reduce the level of debt. It could help slow the level of the debt increase.
Anyway, it's a trick. Republicans will never stand for paying down the debt. To them that's just stealing taxpayer money.