Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Folsom on U.S. National Debt In History

_jeffrey-perrenGuest post by Jeff Perren

Dr. Burt Folsom (author of New Deal or Raw Deal?: How FDR's Economic Legacy Has Damaged America) provides an historical overview of how different eras and Presidents have dealt with national debt.

As always, Prof. Folsom leads with facts and perfectly sums up the lessons to be learned. It's even more interesting in view of the fact that it was written almost five years ago and is more relevant (and horrifying) than it was. He points out that “during the last 75 years the United States has failed to balance its annual budget over 90 percent of the time. What’s worse, the government has spent money so recklessly that we now owe over $8.2 trillion, and Congress recently raised the debt ceiling to $9 trillion..”

That’s almost touching, isn’t it, when now—just five years later--they’re bickering about smashing through a $14.3 trillion ceiling!

The short essay is so well-written I couldn't find a money quote that stood out, so this will have to do:

Interestingly, in the 50 years after the Civil War, from 1866 to 1916, the presidents were committed to restoring American credit, and the national debt was slashed from $2.7 billion to $1.2 billion. But World War I sent the debt spiraling again, this time to $24 billion by 1920. World War II added another digit to the nation’s debt, which leaped from $43 billion to $259 billion from 1940 to 1945.

The whole short piece offers excellent data and a clear moral view. Highly recommended:

Here’s a graph:

USDebtSource: Wikipedia

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