Update – 6 Mar 2009 @ 8:05pm : History Of The Federal Debt – I found data on the yearly federal debt amount from 1791 through present day
Frontline recently had an episode called Ten Trillion and Counting, about the federal government’s debt, which is now over $11 trillion. This made me wonder, when was the last time the federal debt went down year over year? To figure this out I looked at the Federal Debt at the End of Year: 1940–2008 XLS spreadsheet. This information is also available from the 2009 Budget Historical Tables PDF on pages 127 and 128.
Since 1940 the federal debt has only dropped year over year five times: 1947 (by 13.8 billion), 1948 (by 5.1 billion), 1951 (by 1.5 billion), 1956 (by 1.6 billion) and 1957 (by 0.4 billion). In the last 70 years we’ve only reduced the federal debt 7% percent of the time. It’s been more than 50 years since the last time the federal debt was reduced.
The first three times the debt was paid down (1947, 1948 and 1951) Harry S. Truman was President. Perhaps he was serious about his The Buck Stops Here sign. The two most recent years the debt was reduced (1956 and 1957) were under President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Every President (and Congress) since 1957 has added to the federal debt. Makes you wonder when, or if, this trend will ever turn around.