Tag: budget

NYTimes.com – Obama’s 2012 Budget Proposal

Obama’s 2012 Budget Proposal: How It’s Spent – NYTimes.com.

Another great data graphic tool from the New York Times on the proposed 2012 budget from President Obama. Gives you a good sense of what people mean when they say that health care, social security and defense spending are the biggest chunks of the federal budget.

I’d dare say that this type of info graphic tool is so handy that every government budget should come with something like it.

History Of The Federal Debt

My post about Presidents That Have Reduced The Federal Debt was limited to data from 1940 to the present. This was because the data I’d found (2009 Budget Historical Tables PDF and the Federal Debt at the End of Year: 1940–2008 XLS) only went back to 1940. A little more digging revealed that TreasuryDirect.gov has a complete list of the history of annual outstanding federal debt from 1791 to today.

The federal debt started at $75,463,476.52, in 1791. It reached it’s lowest point, $33,733.05, in 1835 when Andrew Jackson was President. Other milestones include the first time the debt passed $1 billion in 1863 under Abraham Lincoln and exceeding $1 trillion in 1982 during Ronald Reagan’s Presidency. On the other side of the coin Woodrow Wilson was the first President to reduce the debt by more than $1 billion in a single year (1920). The single largest reduction in the debt in a single year happened in 1947, by more than $11 billion, when Harry S. Truman was President. Since 1791 the year over year debt has only been reduced 80 times under 29 different Presidents.

Here’s a list of all the years that the federal debt went down, including by how much and who the President was at the time:

  • 1794 – $1.9 million – George Washington
  • 1797 – $1.7 million – George Washington / John Adams
  • 1798 – $2.8 million – John Adams
  • 1799 – $0.8 million – John Adams
  • 1802 – $5.9 million – Thomas Jefferson
  • 1803 – $3.6 million – Thomas Jefferson
  • 1805 – $4.1 million – Thomas Jefferson
  • 1806 – $6.5 million – Thomas Jefferson
  • 1807 – $6.5 million – Thomas Jefferson
  • 1808 – $4.0 million – Thomas Jefferson
  • 1809 – $8.1 million – Thomas Jefferson / James Madison
  • 1810 – $3.8 million – James Madison
  • 1811 – $5.1 million – James Madison
  • 1812 – $2.8 million – James Madison
  • 1817 – $3.8 million – James Madison / James Monroe
  • 1818 – $20.0 million – James Monroe
  • 1819 – $7.9 million – James Monroe
  • 1820 – $4.5 million – James Monroe
  • 1821 – $1.0 million – James Monroe
  • 1823 – $2.6 million – James Monroe
  • 1824 – $0.6 million – James Monroe
  • 1825 – $6.4 million – James Monroe / John Quincy Adams
  • 1826 – $2.7 million – John Quincy Adams
  • 1827 – $7.0 million – John Quincy Adams
  • 1828 – $6.5 million – John Quincy Adams
  • 1829 – $9.0 million – John Quincy Adams / Andrew Jackson
  • 1830 – $9.8 million – Andrew Jackson
  • 1831 – $9.4 million – Andrew Jackson
  • 1832 – $14.8 million – Andrew Jackson
  • 1833 – $17.3 million – Andrew Jackson
  • 1834 – $2.2 million – Andrew Jackson
  • 1835 – $4.7 million – Andrew Jackson
  • 1840 – $6.8 million – Martin Van Buren
  • 1844 – $9.2 million – John Tyler
  • 1845 – $7.5 million – John Tyler / James K. Polk
  • 1846 – $0.3 million – James K. Polk
  • 1852 – $2.1 million – Millard Fillmore
  • 1853 – $6.4 million – Millard Fillmore / Franklin Pierce
  • 1854 – $17.5 million – Franklin Pierce
  • 1855 – $6.6 million – Franklin Pierce
  • 1856 – $3.6 million – Franklin Pierce
  • 1857 – $3.2 million – Franklin Pierce / James Buchanan
  • 1867 – $95.1 million – Andrew Johnson
  • 1868 – $66.4 million – Andrew Johnson
  • 1869 – $23.2 million – Andrew Johnson / Ulysses S. Grant
  • 1870 – $107.7 million – Ulysses S. Grant
  • 1871 – $127.4 million – Ulysses S. Grant
  • 1872 – $99.9 million – Ulysses S. Grant
  • 1873 – $18.7 million – Ulysses S. Grant
  • 1875 – $19.4 million – Ulysses S. Grant
  • 1876 – $51.8 million – Ulysses S. Grant
  • 1880 – $229.1 million – Rutherford Birchard Hayes
  • 1881 – $51.4 million – Rutherford Birchard Hayes / James A. Garfield / Chester Alan Arthur
  • 1882 – $150.7 million – Chester Alan Arthur
  • 1883 – $34.1 million – Chester Alan Arthur
  • 1884 – $53.6 million – Chester Alan Arthur
  • 1886 – $88.9 million – Grover Cleveland
  • 1887 – $117.4 million – Grover Cleveland
  • 1889 – $73.8 million – Grover Cleveland / Benjamin Harrison
  • 1890 – $66.9 million – Benjamin Harrison
  • 1891 – $6.1 million – Benjamin Harrison
  • 1893 – $42.4 million – Benjamin Harrison / Grover Cleveland
  • 1898 – $21.1 million – William McKinley
  • 1914 – $3.7 million – Woodrow Wilson
  • 1920 – $1,438.5 million – Woodrow Wilson
  • 1921 – $1,975.0 million – Woodrow Wilson / Warren G. Harding
  • 1922 – $1,014.0 million – Warren G. Harding
  • 1923 – $613.6 million – Warren G. Harding / Calvin Coolidge
  • 1924 – $1,098.9 million – Calvin Coolidge
  • 1925 – $734.6 million – Calvin Coolidge
  • 1926 – $872.9 million – Calvin Coolidge
  • 1927 – $1,131.3 million – Calvin Coolidge
  • 1928 – $907.6 million – Calvin Coolidge
  • 1929 – $673.2 million – Calvin Coolidge / Herbert Hoover
  • 1930 – $745.7 million – Herbert Hoover
  • 1947 – $11,135.7 million – Harry S. Truman
  • 1948 – $5,994.1 million – Harry S. Truman
  • 1951 – $2,135.3 million – Harry S. Truman
  • 1956 – $1,623.4 million – Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • 1957 – $2,223.6 million – Dwight D. Eisenhower

There’s the complete list of every year in this country’s history where the year over year federal debt went down instead of up.

The debt has been reduced 36.6 percent of the time over the previous 218 years covered by this data. Most of those reductions ( 73 percent ) happened during the 1800s.

Another interesting note that I hadn’t thought about until reviewing this list is that up until 1957 we had never gone more than 17 years without paying down some of the debt. That gap was from 1930 to 1947, with a depression and war undoubtedly being major factors there. The next largest gap was 10 years, 1857 to 1867. The gap was normally much smaller though, with the average between 1791 and 1957 being just under 2 years. The distribution of gaps during that time frame was: 17 years (1), 10 years (1), 6 years (3), 5 years (4), 4 years (2), 3 years (3), 2 years (7) and 1 year (57).

If/when we do reduce the federal debt again it will be the single largest gap between reductions in the history of this country, more than 3 times (at least) the length of the previous longest gap of 17 years.

Presidents That Have Reduced The Federal Debt

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.

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