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The National Debt: From FDR (1941) to Clinton (1996)

The National Debt: From FDR (1941) to Clinton (1996)

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America's debt-$5.2 trillion in 1996-is serious business. Although contemporary press coverage hovers over the story of annual budgets and the associated deficits (and rare surpluses), not much attention is given to the overall national debt and even less to the interest spent serving it. "It's like worrying about the five dollars you borrowed last week and ignoring the mortgage you can't afford," says the author. And federal politicians are generally as impotent to control the debt as they are uninformed about its nature. After tracing the fluctuations in the finances of the country from its beginning until 1940, the administrations of the next 11 presidents-Roosevelt through Clinton-and the annual budget deficits and the interest expenses that fed the national debt are examined in detail. The startup debt of each administration is shown in detail, then restated in 1983 and 1995 dollars. The change in debt through the end of the administration is then analyzed as to what areas of government incurred overspending and how much was overspent. Also discussed are major events or situations, foreign and domestic, that affected fiscal policies and fueled the urge to overspend.