Cover image for The national debt : from FDR (1941) to Clinton (1996)
The national debt : from FDR (1941) to Clinton (1996)
Kelly, Robert E., 1926-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland, 2000.
Physical Description:
vii, 279 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


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HJ8119 .K45 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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America's debt--in the trillions--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.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Kelly has produced an excellent review of the growth of the welfare state and its impact on the federal debt. Using an empirical framework, he considers thoroughly and dismisses other probable causes of the huge federal deficits and resulting debt. Kelly examines the historical periods associated with the terms of the more recent US presidents, beginning with Roosevelt, and each administration's impact on reducing or expanding the federal debt. Johnson, who "socialized America" trying to establish the "Great Society," is viewed as "the father of the present debt." Reagan is noted for repairing the American economy with lower taxes and deregulated businesses and most importantly bringing the Soviet Union to its knees, and Bush for substituting higher welfare spending for lower defense spending. And Clinton, in the face of a strong economy and declining defense needs, funded a larger welfare state. Well written and documented with numerous tables, this book makes a compelling case for limiting debt by reducing citizens' dependence on the government and supporting private sector growth. Kelly's case would be stronger had he used inflation adjusted numbers and graphics rather than many of the tables. Nevertheless, an excellent historical recitation of the benefits and costs of many tools of public finance. Informed general readers; upper-division undergraduates and up. E. D. Craig; University of Delaware