Wednesday, February 18, 2009

WSJ: A Short History of the National Debt

An op-ed piece by John Steele Gordon in today's WSJ takes us back to a brief period in our country's history when there was no national debt:

"Before the Great Depression, balancing the budget and paying down the debt were considered second only to the defense of the country as an obligation of the federal government ...

There even was a time when the U.S. made it a deliberate policy to pay off the national debt entirely -- and succeeded in doing so. It remains to this day the only time in history a major country has been debt free. Ironically, the president who achieved this was the founder of the modern Democratic Party, Andrew Jackson ...

When he ran for president the first time, in 1824, Jackson called the debt a "national curse." He vowed to "pay the national debt, to prevent a monied aristocracy from growing up around our administration that must bend to its views, and ultimately destroy the liberty of our country."

"How gratifying," he wrote in 1829 as he began his presidency, "the effect of presenting to the world the sublime spectacle of a Republic of more than 12 million happy people, in the 54th year of her existence . . . free from debt and with all . . . [her] immense resources unfettered!""

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