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Deficit Has Only Been Reduced By Two Presidents in 50 years?

Deficit reduced by Obama and Clinton

Presidents and Reduced Deficit

Clinton and Obama were the only two presidents to reduce the federal deficit since 1967? Since 1967 there has been Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush, Bill Clinton, George W Bush, and Obama in office.


This makes the claim that there was only a reduction in the budget deficit under these two presidents over a 50 year period. In fact, at least one year in every presidency from 1967 until 2017 had a reduction from the previous years deficit.

The table below shows all of the years (marked with an X) that the deficit was lowered compared to the previous year. [1]

Year Deficit (in millions) Decrease? President
1967 -8,643 LBJ
1968 -25,161 LBJ
1969 3,242 X LBJ
1970 -2,842 X NIXON
1971 -23,033 NIXON
1972 -23,373 NIXON
1973 -14,908 X NIXON
1974 -6,135 X NIXON
1975 -53,242 FORD
1976 -73,732 FORD
TQ -14,744 X FORD
1977 -53,659 FORD
1978 -59,185 CARTER
1979 -40,726 X CARTER
1980 -73,830 CARTER
1981 -78,968 CARTER
1982 -127,977 REAGAN
1983 -207,802 REAGAN
1984 -185,367 X REAGAN
1985 -212,308 REAGAN
1986 -221,227 REAGAN
1987 -149,730 X REAGAN
1988 -155,178 REAGAN
1989 -152,639 X REAGAN
1990 -221,036 BUSH
1991 -269,238 BUSH
1992 -290,321 BUSH
1993 -255,051 X BUSH
1994 -203,186 CLINTON
1995 -163,952 X CLINTON
1996 -107,431 X CLINTON
1997 -21,884 X CLINTON
1998 69,270 X CLINTON
1999 125,610 X CLINTON
2000 236,241 X CLINTON
2001 128,236 X CLINTON
2002 -157,758 BUSH
2003 -377,585 BUSH
2004 -412,727 BUSH
2005 -318,346 X BUSH
2006 -248,181 X BUSH
2007 -160,701 X BUSH
2008 -458,553 BUSH
2009 -1,412,688 BUSH
2010 -1,294,373 X OBAMA
2011 -1,299,590 X OBAMA
2012 -1,086,963 X OBAMA
2013 -679,544 X OBAMA
2014 -484,627 X OBAMA
2015 -438,406 X OBAMA
2016 -615,805 OBAMA
2017 -503,482 OBAMA

Note that the definition of the fiscal year changed between 1976 and 1977. TQ is the transition quarter, the 3-month period July 1, 1976 to September 30, 1976.

Source: White House Historical Tables (Archived)

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According to Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, debt is defined as “a state of owing” or “something owed: Obligation.”  Interestingly, it is also defined as “Sin, Trespass.”  All three definitions accurately describe the condition, history, and decisions leading to the persistent and rising debt of the U.S. federal government.

For over 120 years, the United States raised money during times of war or financial panics.  Each time, the leaders of the country worked hard to reduce their obligations, wary of passing debts to future generations.  But starting in the early 1900’s, views about debt and the role of the federal government began to change.  Now, one hundred years later, America is over $14 trillion in debt.  Americans need to know why we are in such a horrible financial condition and what changes are necessary to become debt free.

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  • The United States government has a long history of debt, starting with its initial obligations from the Revolutionary War.  Unfortunately, the debt hasn’t been reduced even once since 1958.  The last and only time we’ve been debt free was in the 1800’s.  Understand the debt from a historical perspective in Chapter 1.
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  • In 1985, 16% of our debt was held by foreign interests.  Today, that percentage is over 50%.  Find out who owns the debt in Chapter 2.
  • Social Security has been called a Ponzi scheme.  Understand how the Social Security “trust funds” work in Chapter 2.
  • Some people think military conflicts are the cause of our current debt problems.  However, national defense outlays are only 20% of the total spending over the last 35 years.  Learn where the money is really spent in Chapter 3.
  • Which Presidents spent the most? One President increased general government spending by over 1300%, five times more than any other.  Look at spending by Presidential terms in Chapter 3.
  • The actual debt of the U.S. government is not $14 trillion.  It is much, much higher.  Learn why the actual debt is closer to $60 trillion in Chapter 4.
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