The Myth of the Clinton Surplus

There’s no denying that the most robust economy we’ve seen in the last 50 years was under President Clinton, and that both sides of the political aisle take credit for and use the Clinton economy as a yardstick.

But, were the Clinton surpluses really surpluses? I came across this interesting article at the Libertarian Party of Tennessee’s website: The Myth of the Clinton Surplus (linked above).

I’ve known about this for years, but now Craig Steiner has taken the time to lay it all out with the numbers and the facts. Steiner also explains that it was the usual doublespeak and government “arithmetic” that made it look like the U.S. government had a surplus.

Fiscal Year Year Ending National Debt Deficit
FY1993 09/30/1993 $4.411488 trillion
FY1994 09/30/1994 $4.692749 trillion $281.26 billion
FY1995 09/29/1995 $4.973982 trillion $281.23 billion
FY1996 09/30/1996 $5.224810 trillion $250.83 billion
FY1997 09/30/1997 $5.413146 trillion $188.34 billion
FY1998 09/30/1998 $5.526193 trillion $113.05 billion
FY1999 09/30/1999 $5.656270 trillion $130.08 billion
FY2000 09/29/2000 $5.674178 trillion $17.91 billion
FY2001 09/28/2001 $5.807463 trillion $133.29 billion

Pretty interesting stuff, especially if you read the linked article by Craig Steiner, where he explains it all in plain language. Steiner also alludes to a fact that I’ve been explaining to anyone who would listen for months and months: balancing the budget is great, but it’s only the first step — we need budget surpluses in order to start paying down the national debt.

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