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James Quinn has held financial positions with a retailer, homebuilder and university in his 29 year career. Those positions included treasurer, controller, and head of strategic planning. He is married with three boys and is writing these articles because he cares about their future. He earned a... More
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  • NATIONAL DEBT BY YEAR 23 comments
    Jul 22, 2009 10:08 PM

    Below is the National Debt by year since the creation of our Republic. Since the creation of the Federal Reserve the National Debt has gone up by 400,000%.

    The most fascinating period was the Presidency of Andrew Jackson from 1829 to 1837. He inherited a National Debt of $58 million and reduced it to $33,000 by 1835. No wonder the bankers hated him. We've added $10 trillion of debt since 1981.



    Dollar Amount







    09/30/1985* 1,823,103,000,000.00
    09/30/1984* 1,572,266,000,000.00
    09/30/1983* 1,377,210,000,000.00
    09/30/1982* 1,142,034,000,000.00
    09/30/1981* 997,855,000,000.00
    09/30/1980* 907,701,000,000.00
    09/30/1979* 826,519,000,000.00
    09/30/1978* 771,544,000,000.00
    09/30/1977* 698,840,000,000.00
    06/30/1976* 620,433,000,000.00
    06/30/1975* 533,189,000,000.00

    06/30/1942 72,422,445,116.22
    06/30/1941 48,961,443,535.71
    06/29/1940 42,967,531,037.68
    06/30/1939 40,439,532,411.11
    06/30/1938 37,164,740,315.45
    06/30/1937 36,424,613,732.29
    06/30/1936 33,778,543,493.73
    06/29/1935 28,700,892,624.53
    06/30/1934 27,053,141,414.48
    06/30/1933 22,538,672,560.15
    06/30/1932 19,487,002,444.13
    06/30/1931 16,801,281,491.71
    06/30/1930 16,185,309,831.43
    06/29/1929 16,931,088,484.10
    06/30/1928 17,604,293,201.43
    06/30/1927 18,511,906,931.85
    06/30/1926 19,643,216,315.19
    06/30/1925 20,516,193,887.90
    06/30/1924 21,250,812,989.49
    06/30/1923 22,349,707,365.36
    06/30/1922 22,963,381,708.31
    06/30/1921 23,977,450,552.54
    07/01/1920 25,952,456,406.16
    07/01/1919 27,390,970,113.12
    07/01/1918 14,592,161,414.00
    07/01/1917  5,717,770,279.52
    07/01/1916  3,609,244,262.16
    07/01/1915  3,058,136,873.16
    07/01/1914  2,912,499,269.16
    07/01/1913  2,916,204,913.66
    07/01/1912  2,868,373,874.16
    07/01/1911  2,765,600,606.69
    07/01/1910  2,652,665,838.04
    07/01/1909  2,639,546,241.04
    07/01/1908  2,626,806,271.54
    07/01/1907  2,457,188,061.54
    07/01/1906  2,337,161,839.04
    07/01/1905  2,274,615,063.84
    07/01/1904  2,264,003,585.14
    07/01/1903  2,202,464,781.89
    07/01/1902  2,158,610,445.89
    07/01/1901  2,143,326,933.89
    07/01/1900  2,136,961,091.67

    07/01/1862   524,176,412.13
    07/01/1861     90,580,873.72
    07/01/1860     64,842,287.88
    07/01/1859     58,496,837.88
    07/01/1858     44,911,881.03
    07/01/1857     28,699,831.85
    07/01/1856     31,972,537.90
    07/01/1855     35,586,956.56
    07/01/1854     42,242,222.42
    07/01/1853     59,803,117.70
    07/01/1852     66,199,341.71
    07/01/1851     68,304,796.02
    07/01/1850     63,452,773.55

    07/01/1849  63,061,858.69
    07/01/1848  47,044,862.23
    07/01/1847  38,826,534.77
    07/01/1846  15,550,202.97
    07/01/1845  15,925,303.01
    07/01/1844  23,461,652.50
    07/01/1843  32,742,922.00
    01/01/1843  20,201,226.27
    01/01/1842  13,594,480.73
    01/01/1841    5,250,875.54
    01/01/1840    3,573,343.82
    01/01/1839  10,434,221.14
    01/01/1838    3,308,124.07
    01/01/1837      336,957.83
    01/01/1836        37,513.05
    01/01/1835        33,733.05
    01/01/1834   4,760,082.08
    01/01/1833   7,001,698.83
    01/01/1832 24,322,235.18
    01/01/1831 39,123,191.68
    01/01/1830 48,565,406.50
    01/01/1829 58,421,413.67
    01/01/1828 67,475,043.87
    01/01/1827 73,987,357.20
    01/01/1826 81,054,059.99
    01/01/1825 83,788,432.71
    01/01/1824 90,269,777.77
    01/01/1823 90,875,877.28
    01/01/1822 93,546,676.98
    01/01/1821 89,987,427.66
    01/01/1820 91,015,566.15
    01/01/1819 95,529,648.28
    01/01/1815  99,833,660.15
    01/01/1814  81,487,846.24
    01/01/1813  55,962,827.57
    01/01/1812  45,209,737.90
    01/01/1811  48,005,587.76
    01/01/1810  53,173,217.52
    01/01/1809  57,023,192.09
    01/01/1808  65,196,317.97
    01/01/1807  69,218,398.64
    01/01/1806  75,723,270.66 
    01/01/1805  82,312,150.50
    01/01/1804  86,427,120.88
    01/01/1803  77,054,686.40
    01/01/1802  80,712,632.25
    01/01/1801  83,038,050.80
    01/01/1800  82,976,294.35
    01/01/1799  78,408,669.77
    01/01/1798  79,228,529.12
    01/01/1797  82,064,479.33
    01/01/1796  83,762,172.07
    01/01/1795  80,747,587.39
    01/01/1794  78,427,404.77
    01/01/1793  80,358,634.04
    01/01/1792  77,227,924.66
    01/01/1791  75,463,476.52

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Comments (23)
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  • jimboy
    , contributor
    Comments (110) | Send Message
    The truly scary part is just around the corner. When the effects of the stimulus fade without having kickstarted a cycle of business investment and private sector consumption, what then? There will be a clamour for a new (larger) stimulus and a new line of snouts jostling at the bailout trough, all this on top of a structural deficit made worse by rising interest costs and new health and other entitlements. The result will be a massive expansion in QE not because it is needed "to fight deflation" (it isn´t) but because it´s the only way the government can finance its spending. This is the road to Banana Republic status, and the fact that other countries are going down a similar route doesn´t make it feel much better.
    23 Jul 2009, 06:49 AM Reply Like
  • matt a laing
    , contributor
    Comments (5) | Send Message
    under the sainted reagan, who said he would cut taxes, increase defense spending and balance the budget, the debt went from $950b to more than $3T.
    under bush 1, from $3T to $4.2T(in 4 years). the formula was deregulate and cut taxes.
    under clinton the debt went from $4.2T to $5.7T ending in 2 years of surplus,
    and then we had bush 2, and using the reagan formula of deregulation and cutting taxes the debt went from $5.7T to over $11T, ending with close to a china syndrome in the worldwide financial system, and monthly job losses of 750,000.
    now, after only 20 months on the job, the republicans insist that obama has failed, but thank goodness, they have a plan to turn things around, guess what the plan is --- to continue the bush tax cuts that have been in effect for the entire time the mini depression developed and for each and every day since it started in january 2008.
    it's the definition of insanity, doing the same thing and expecting a different result.
    don't forget the deregulation part of reaganism, that gave us sub-prime mortgages and the housing bubble, the savings & loan melt down, enron, the dotcom bubble, madoff, and bp drilling a mile deep in the gulf w/o a relief well (required in canadian waters) or even a plan to deal with any potential problems.
    oh, and the third leg of the republican program -- repeal the obama health care plan. now there's a good way to spin our wheels for the next few years of the recession, congress concentrating on passing bills to be vetoed by the democrat president. and the tea party republicans seem to have gotten the public to buy into this nonsense.
    the tea party also talk of building a fence to keep out mexicans, repealing the 14th amendment, withdrawing from the u.n., and burning korans, seceding from the union, "excercising 2nd amendment rights" and other forms of sedition.
    any hint of bipartisanship, compromise or cooperation with democrats to try to deal with our problems is grounds to be drummed our of the republican party.
    god help our country.
    17 Sep 2010, 05:02 PM Reply Like
  • pgauthier
    , contributor
    Comments (3) | Send Message
    Unfortunietly history either bores or completely escapes the average American. The average American is motivated by misleading oversimplified surface slogans, most of which actually work against them when the real effects are studied. Ignorance is and always will be the downfall of societies at the hands of the powerful and greedy.
    18 Sep 2010, 11:52 AM Reply Like
  • themohican
    , contributor
    Comment (1) | Send Message
    Mr Laing,
    If you go year by year in the Bush 2 admin., it increased each year by 1/2 trillion, but when the Democrats took the legislature, it increased over 1 trillion each year. The legislature spends the money, not the president.
    Chuck Woody
    15 Jul 2011, 12:46 AM Reply Like
  • matt a laing
    , contributor
    Comments (5) | Send Message
    only if they override a veto. spending originates in the house, but without a veto, not a penny gets spent without the president signing on. w was notorious for never vetoing anything.
    by the way, while bush was president the debt limit was increased 7 times. and under reagan 17 times. and not once was it held up or delayed by the democrats.
    also, w's tax cuts were the first in history which were scheduled to expire. because the deficits get so big in the ten years after 2010, that the politics made it difficult to pass even in the early 90's.
    15 Jul 2011, 02:58 PM Reply Like
  • night-hunter
    , contributor
    Comment (1) | Send Message
    No, there was no "surplus!" You are trying to cloud the issue by comparing the amount actually spent vs the budget for the year, with the National Debt. They are NOT the same.


    In comparable terms, a family makes a budget for the year, in which it has borrowed for the mortgage, the car, and credit cards. At the end of the year, they find that they didn't spend as much on food, clothing, entertainment, as they had budgeted for. But the outstanding amount owed for the mortgage, car, and credit cards, went up!
    1 Oct 2011, 06:55 PM Reply Like
  • rwjustus
    , contributor
    Comment (1) | Send Message
    Deregulation occurred in 1999 when Slick Willy was at the helm.
    24 Sep 2012, 04:22 AM Reply Like
  • Momma Donni
    , contributor
    Comment (1) | Send Message
    I find it so pathetic that since the stimulus everyone keeps thinking we will just keep having more and more stimulus to keep things going. What we really need, and Obama has been saying this since his first election, is to create JOBS!! "But the government doesn't create jobs, blah blah blah" Well, I live just a few miles away from a HUGE government job that was created in the '30's and is still employing people today, the Hoover Dam. Just think if we were to do something like that right now, like open one of those closed factories and begin making solar panels and wind turbines,how many people would that put to work? Then we need people to install these things, then we would need people to keep them running. HELLO!! Good, sustainable jobs for American's that can't be outsourced. MORE people working, MORE people paying taxes, MORE people paying thier bills and MORE people buying stuff. The more we make in this country the better we get!! And since you brought up other countries, this is an area we have fallen way way way behind on. WE need to start playing catch up fast!!
    30 Nov 2012, 02:59 AM Reply Like
  • lead dog
    , contributor
    Comment (1) | Send Message
    Context is everything. While Andrew Jackson's economic policies MAY have been wise (more expert testimony needed), there was lots of public land to sell in those days, and there were lots of westward settlers to buy it. Also, Jackson's policies MAY have led to the great Panic/depression starting 1837, saddling his luckless successor Martin Van Buren with a situation for which Jackson was to blame, and up shoots the national debt again.


    Notice how nicely the great increases correspond to going to war. Essential "good" war, dumb war of choice, doesn't matter.
    14 Apr 2010, 08:12 PM Reply Like
  • pgauthier
    , contributor
    Comments (3) | Send Message
    Great source of dollar amounts however, this data means nothing unless its adjusted for inflation. The value of Dollar is never constant. You can't buy milk and eggs for the same amount you did when you were younger. The dollar my Dad's government borrowed back in 1974 is worth less than 25 cents in todays dollars, so its really just a battle between interest in the debt vs investment return. i.e. it matters how well the spend the money more then how much you borrow. As long as there is a return on the money borrowed the more you borrow the greater the recovery. That how we got out of the great depression. The only pause in that recovery was the 1937 conservative uprising, simular to what is likely going to happen soon.
    4 Sep 2010, 08:50 PM Reply Like
  • pgauthier
    , contributor
    Comments (3) | Send Message
    We do need some common sense in the spending though. All the public works projects were worth there rate in gold. The bank bailouts, well they sould have never been needed if the proper regulations were in place, but without them the fiat system would have collapsed.


    Unemployment that needs to continue but in exchange for alternating public service. After 3 months, alternate weeks you work 40 hours on public works or public need projects, lets get stuff done and built. I know several people living very comfortable on unemployment with no desire to get a job and contributing nothing to making things better (yes it happens, its called human nature), my brother got fired from an 8 year job almost a year ago, he's gotten jack, he survives on me, he would be glad to get a government job.
    4 Sep 2010, 09:02 PM Reply Like
  • twotaul
    , contributor
    Comment (1) | Send Message
    It always amazes me that we all know how much debt each of us owes but no one seems to know how much we are taking in. If you show both then we have a perspective that makes sense. I would worry about my personal bills if I had no idea how much I was making. Also keep in mind that of our $13.7 Trillion debt we owe $9.2 to ourselves. All the stimulus packages we passed under both Bush and Obama would have paid off the Chinese three times.
    16 Nov 2010, 12:35 AM Reply Like
  • tryingharder
    , contributor
    Comment (1) | Send Message
    I don't think we can view the debt like costs; it is debt meaning we didn't balance. If this were like cost to income comparison then these costs reveal our national debt, we're in the hole negative and need to get out; too much outgoing not for the amount incoming!
    25 Nov 2010, 01:44 PM Reply Like
  • seekingtruth1066
    , contributor
    Comments (1029) | Send Message
    The debt problems this nation faces are structural in nature. The liberals in this country simply fail to understand that we cannot tax our way out of this. We must completely restructure the U.S. budget and the economy for that matter.
    27 Dec 2010, 08:40 PM Reply Like
  • Rick Brg
    , contributor
    Comment (1) | Send Message
    Can anybody give me a detail listing of countries we owe money to beside China? How and why, money owed and for how long each debt?
    26 Jul 2011, 11:14 PM Reply Like
  • msprn3
    , contributor
    Comment (1) | Send Message


    7.1% out of the 42.1% held by us corporate and individual investors is held by the Federal Reserve System. 26% is held by the Social Security Trust Fund, US Civil Service and Military Retirement trust funds. Wonder why the conservatives want to eliminate these "entitlement programs" even though they are required retirement insurance programs.
    31 Jul 2011, 04:08 PM Reply Like
  • matt a laing
    , contributor
    Comments (5) | Send Message
    If a majority agrees that providing the elderly with an income floor and medical care, social security and medicare, will be provided, the cost should be borne by everyone. Lebron James pays a very small percentage of his income for this obligation, while my son with two children pays 7.65% (double that with employers share). If all we do is make all income taxed for social securitry, and allow the wealthy to pay their fair share, social security is back in surplus and the excess could be used to fund medicare and perhaps medicaid.
    Raising the retirement age or eligibility for medicare hit precisely the most in need of these programs. But, these will be the only offer that the republicans will put off the table to deal with the problem.
    1 Aug 2011, 11:14 AM Reply Like
  • SignificantDigit
    , contributor
    Comments (2) | Send Message
    Wow! You've managed to compute the debt to 16 significan digits, more accuracy than any constant of nature has ever been calculated. But you forgot to tell us which femtosecond during the year it was for.
    29 Nov 2011, 01:27 PM Reply Like
  • SignificantDigit
    , contributor
    Comments (2) | Send Message
    I teach my students the difference between accuracy and precision.
    29 Nov 2011, 01:28 PM Reply Like
  • James Quinn
    , contributor
    Comments (1016) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » No computation necessary. The US Treasury provides the National Debt figures on a daily basis. I feel sorry for your students.
    30 Nov 2011, 09:07 AM Reply Like
  • matt a laing
    , contributor
    Comments (5) | Send Message
    republicans have suddenly become hysterical about the national debt. we borrow 40 cents of every dollar we are spending. to deal with this, only cutting spending is permitted. they have all taken a traitorous pledge to never raise taxes no matter the circumstances. they apparently do not consider the fact that the progressive nature of the federal income tax has largely been abandoned and that the highest marginal tax rate is at historically low levels to have even contributed to any of the problems we are now facing. if low taxes on the rich makes money available to the "job creators," why haven't the low taxes created jobs?
    1 Dec 2011, 06:38 PM Reply Like
  • James Quinn
    , contributor
    Comments (1016) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » Sorry matt


    The country has a spending problem, not a revenue problem.


    FY2000 Revenue $2.2 trillion; Spending $2.2 trillion


    FY2011 Revenue $2.2 trillion; Spending $3.7 trillion
    2 Dec 2011, 07:37 AM Reply Like
  • No1
    , contributor
    Comments (95) | Send Message
    For those that are quick to glorify the Clinton years, remember one of the tools used to balance the deficit was to raid the SS trust fund kitty. Republicans did the same.


    Also dereg of the financial wasn't so much the culprit at the implicit (and in some cases explicit) government guarantee it would step in. Bankruptcy is to Capitalism like hell is to Christianity.


    What is real interesting is the weighted average age of our federal debt. Now many think, "well we sell 30 years bonds" but the weighted average is closer to ~5 years. Which means, when interest rates go up, by even 2-3%, our ~18% federal budget used to pay interest (not a penny for principal) will quickly dwarf all other spending within 2-3 years. It also means those that hold our debt don't have to worry about selling... just let it expire and not roll-over.


    “Debt is the slavery of the free” (Publilius Syrus) it was true back in 1st century BC and still true today. One day, we may actually learn that lesson.
    2 Jan 2012, 11:26 AM Reply Like
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