Pay.gov – Donations To Pay Off The Public Debt

Tired of hearing about how bad the federal debt is? Turns out you can donate money to the United States Treasury to help pay off the public debt:

Thank you for your contribution which will be deposited to the account “Gifts to Reduce the Public Debt.” Your contribution is accepted under the provisions of 31 U.S.C. 3113 which authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury to accept conditional gifts to the United States for the purpose of reducing the public debt. These donations are voluntary, and no goods, services, or other considerations are provided to the donors.

It sounds like these donations are specifically limited to only paying down the public debt.

As of 31 October 2011 the total public debt is $14,993,709,000,000. As of the 2010 Census there are 308,745,538 people in America, bringing the per person amount to roughly $48,563.33. Not exactly a trivial amount.

I’d be curious to know how many people donate to that account and approximately what those amounts look like.

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.