National Debt Over The Last 50 Years

National Debt Over The Last 50 Years


Courtesy of

  • sleipner

    This must be in 1950 dollars or something, cause the Republicans are adding what, 700 billion a year now?

  • wj

    Does make the point rather clearly about who are the big spenders in Washington, doesn’t it?

  • Meredith

    That is really telling, especially about Clinton and Bush. What an accomplishment for Clinton, who dropped it all the way down from it’s highest point, and what a miserable failure for Bush, who put it all the way back up!

  • Justin Gardner

    I deleted a comment from a troll. For the reason why, click here.

    And to the troll in question, LEAVE US ALONE!

  • Jimmy the Dhimmi

    Now plot out the GDP over the same time period.

  • DosPeros

    Exactly, Jimmy.

  • Tully

    What Jimmy said. Without that it’s meaningless. And running it as %GDP is appropriate as well. So is seperating out the public debt from “intragovernmental holdings,” which is money the government “owes” itself.

  • Justin Gardner

    Okay, here you go.

  • Jimmy the Dhimmi

    Pretty solid debt burden of between 50-70% of GDP for the past 20 years. Notice that the lowest debt-to-GDP ratios occurred during the recession years of the mid-late 1970s.

    50-60% is much lower than the 80-90% in Europe or the 120%+ for Japan (who is our larges lender by the way). This means we are paying off old debts and taking out new loans to promote steady growth. That is why we have the lowest interest-on-debt rates in the world. Our markets are always reliable to foreign lenders; low risk = low rates. A sure sign of a healthy, stable economy. No need to get your panties in a bunch Justin. 😛

    Here is an interesting perspective from a non-partsan economist. It is worth adding to the discussion.

  • Tully

    It’s not easy to compare to the national debt of other countries. They have differing ways of accounting for their debt. The porblem isn’t what we have now, the problem is that it’s increasing, and that a big chunk of it is not really “debt” in the fiscal sense, but “debt” as in “promised future benefits that will grow faster than revenues.”

    Public debt is right now about 40% of GDP. It’s the “intragovernmental holdings” (money the government “owes” itself) that drive it up so high. If we don’t control those program entitlements, especially Medicare and SS, we be screwed. Or our kids are–we’ll demand our SS checks and our Medicare, and bitch about the growing taxes and deficits…

  • PatHMV

    I’ve done the same chart but expressing the annual surplus/deficit as a percentage of GDP. I’ve also more clearly shown which party controlled the House of Representatives during the relevant time periods. The data becomes much more ambiguous when you look at it that way. The trend to reducing the debt actually began a couple of years before Clinton took office, and it really hit its zenith after the Republicans took control of the House in the 1994 elections. See this chart at Stubborn Facts.

  • John Smith

    Debt to GDP ratio is a nice way to measure national debt for people who don’t really want to deal with the debt. The bottom line is with your debt is still growing at a vast rate.

    The best way I look at national debt, the U.S. government brings in about 2.5 Trillion dollars of tax revenue. The interest on the debt has been said to be between 400 and 600 billion dollars a year. so about 20% a year of the governments revenue is used to pay interest on debt. As your debt load grows the interest payments increase but the debt never decreases.

    Which brings me back to the bottom line, people who look at the Debt to GDP ratio ignores that the TOTAL debt increases while the debt to GDP ratio decreases. As the total debt grows, interest payments increase and cut into government spending with which both parties are reluctant to cut back on programs.

  • Ralph Musgrave

    The hysterics who weep and wail about the national debt should get some facts into their silly heads. For example the U.K. national debt just after World War II and just after the Napoleonic wars over a hundred years earlier was over 200% of GDP. And that did not prove a big problem. The current U.S. national debt is NOWHERE NEAR HALF THIS LEVEL !!!

    But getting the debt down is not a bad idea. For anyone who seriously wants to see how to do it, see: