History Q&A: How Have Presidents Dealt with the Nation’s Debt & Deficit in the Past?

HISTORY Q & A

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History Q&A: How Have Presidents Dealt with the Nation’s Debt & Deficit in the Past?

Room for Debate: Presidents and Their Debts, F.D.R. to Bush

Source: NYT, 7-21-11

Introduction

Reagan, Nixon, Johnson and F.D.R.Associated Press Clockwise from top left: Ronald Reagan and James Baker in 1988; Richard Nixon, who would later call himself a Keynesian, with Milton Friedman in 1968; Lyndon Johnson, signing Medicare into law in 1965, with Harry Truman by his side; and Franklin Roosevelt signing Social Security into law in 1935.

Polls show that most Americans are disgusted at the standoff in Washington over the nation’s debt. Aren’t they used to this by now? After all, battles over federal borrowing and spending go back to George Washington. Yet each era’s debates and decisions change the stage for the challenges to come.

We asked some prominent historians for their perspective on the background to the current drama, as the clock ticks down on negotiations to keep the nation from falling into default. What evolution in the role of the two parties do we see? How have deficits affected a president’s ideology, and vice versa? What are the important historical markers?

 Read the Discussion »

Debaters

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