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Dan Lee

Dan Lee

When one addresses controversial issues in the public arena, there is always pushback. President Harry S. Truman once said, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

Well, I don’t mind taking the heat that comes with addressing controversial issues. I do not intend to get out of the kitchen. In fact, I welcome opposing views. My own take on these matters is that if two people agree about everything, at least one of them is not thinking for herself or himself.

But if someone does attack me for positions that I have taken, I do expect that they get the facts right. In an Oc5. 19, letter to the editor, ar ader stated, “Dan Lee, in his Sept. 29 column, talked about the national debt and blamed it all on the president and the Republicans. Before 2016 it was going up $2 trillion per year. Last year it went up less than $1 trillion.”

So what are the facts with respect to federal budget deficits? The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), a nonpartisan federal agency that is widely viewed as the most authoritative source of information about these matters, reports federal budget deficits and surpluses (yes, there have been some budget surpluses).

Their numbers are as follows, with the president noted in parentheses:

1969 -- $3.2 billion surplus ( Richard Nixon)

1970 -- $2.8 billion deficit (Nixon)

1971 -- $23 billion deficit (Nixon)

1972 -- $23.4 billion deficit (Nixon)

1973 -- $14.9 billion deficit (Nixon)

1974 -- $6.1 billion deficit (Nixon)

1975 -- $53.2 billion deficit (Gerald Ford)

1976 -- $73.7 billion deficit (Ford)

1977 -- $53.7 billion deficit (Jimmy Carter)

1978 -- $59.2 billion deficit (Carter)

1979 -- $40.7 billion deficit (Carter)

1980 -- $73.8 billion deficit (Carter)

1981 -- $79 billion deficit (Ronald Reagan)

1982 -- $128 billion deficit (Reagan)

1983 -- $207.8 billion deficit (Reagan)

1984 -- $185.4 billion deficit (Reagan)

1985 -- $212.3 billion deficit (Reagan)

1986 -- $221.2 billion deficit (Reagan)

1987 -- $149.7 billion deficit (Reagan)

1988 -- $155.2 billion deficit (Reagan)

1989 -- $152.6 billion deficit (George H.W. Bush)

1990 -- $221 billion deficit (George H.W. Bush)

1991 -- $269.2 billion deficit (George H.W. Bush)

1992 -- $290.3 billion deficit (George H.W. Bush)

1993 -- $255.1 billion deficit (Bill Clinton)

1994 -- $203.2 billion deficit (Clinton)

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1995 -- $164 billion deficit (Clinton)

1996 -- $107.4 billion deficit (Clinton)

1997 -- $21.9 billion deficit (Clinton)

1998 -- $69.3 billion surplus (Clinton)

1999 -- $125.6 billion surplus (Clinton)

2000 -- $236.2 billion surplus (Clinton)

2001 -- $128.2 billion surplus (George W. Bush)

2002 -- $157.8 billion deficit (George W. Bush)

2003 -- $377.6 billion deficit (George W. Bush)

2004 -- $412.7 billion deficit (George W. Bush)

2005 -- $319 billion deficit (George W. Bush)

2006 -- $248.2 billion deficit (George W. Bush)

2007 -- $162 billion deficit (George W. Bush)

2008 -- $455 billion deficit (George W. Bush)

2009 -- $1.4 trillion deficit (Barack Obama)

2010 -- $1.3 trillion deficit (Obama)

2011 -- $1.4 trillion deficit (Obama)

2012 -- $1.1 trillion deficit (Obama)

2013 -- $719 billion deficit (Obama)

2014 -- $514 billion deficit (Obama)

2015 -- $439 billion deficit (Obama)

2016 -- $585 billion deficit (Obama)

2017 -- $665 billion deficit (Donald Trump)

2018 -- $779 billion deficit (Trump)

2019 -- $960 billion deficit projected (Trump)

2020 -- $1 trillion deficit projected (Trump)

NOTES:

1. The largest that the federal budget deficit has been to date is $1.4 trillion, which occurred during the Great Recession that started in 2008.

2. The deficit numbers for the first year of a presidency actually reflect the budget of the previous president (e.g., the 2017 budget deficit actually reflects Obama’s last budget, rather than Trump’s first budget.)

3. While factors such as spending levels come into play, the greatest increases in budget deficits (apart from those that occurred during the Great Recession of 2008 and its aftermath) have tended to occur during the presidencies of presidents who pushed through tax cuts (Reagan, George W. Bush and Trump).

POSTSCRIPT: While those who attack me for my views tend to assume that I am a liberal Democrat, I am not. I did not vote for Hilary Clinton. I voted write-in for a Republican who would have been a superb president.

Daniel E. Lee is the Marian Taft Cannon Professor in the Humanities at Augustana; danlee@augustana.edu.

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