Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Clinton Surplus Myth

By Andrew Roman
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Back in 2010, when I had my own blog - and the disaster of what would become the Obama presidency was still largely ahead of us - I was commenting on an article from Reuters (of all places) that predicted a national debt of nearly 20 trillion bucks by the year 2015. 

Prophetic, yes, if not a little too conservative in estimate.

As I wrote then:
An exasperated blogger at Reuters, who goes by the name of johnchick, posted the following rhetorical question: “How can any Administration raise the debt by 20-30% in a couple years?”


To which another blogger responded with the following: 
"You should ask George Bush, Cause he was the first to do it. And he is largely the origin of the current fiscal mess that the U.S. is in. Bushie inherited a surplus from the Clinton Administration and quickly turned that into the largest yearly deficits that the U.S. has ever seen. And his Conservative ideology ruined the American Economy in the process. The U.S. is now going the way of the DoDo. And the world will be a better place for it."

At the time, a million questions and comments came to mind: Bush a conservative? Really? The world would be a better place with a failing United States economy? Bush inherited a surplus? Huh?

The focus of my article then went on to dispel that myth - and that's EXACTLY what it is: a bona fide piece of fiction.

Here's what I wrote then:

Let’s be perfectly clear, there was never a true surplus under President Bill Clinton.

Indeed, it flies in the face of conventional wisdom, but the numbers do not, in any way, back up such a claim.

For example, the surplus announced in 2000 – $230 billion – was really a nifty bookkeeping stunt. It was not a genuine surplus, because only the “public debt” was accounted for.

Remember, there are two components to the national debt: public debt - which includes such things as savings bonds and treasury bills - and intergovernmental holdings, which includes income tax revenues and governmental borrowing from itself.

During the last years of the Clinton administration, the public debt did go down, but intergovernmental debt increased by a greater amount.

Not once during Clinton’s time in office did the national debt decrease.

It is not possible, by definition, to have a surplus if the national debt keeps increasing.

First of all, the official Clinton “surplus” numbers, which can be seen here, via the Congressional Budget Office, are as follows:

-Fiscal Year 1998 – $69.3 Billion surplus.
-Fiscal Year 1999 – $125.6 Billion surplus.
-Fiscal Year 2000 – $236.3 Billion surplus.

Please note that these very numbers were also reported by CNN.

Now, if you go to the Bureau of the Public Debt website, which is part of the United States Department of Treasury, you’ll find a link that reads “See the U.S. Public Debt To The Penny.” (You may need to scroll down a bit)

Once you click on that, you’ll be brought to page that gives you the current total national debt (divided into two subgroups: “Debt held by the Public” and “Intrgovernmental Holdings”) along with a search application that enables you to type in the dates of your choosing to see what the total national debt was on that given date.

The important thing to check are the FISCAL YEAR parameters. (The fiscal year always begins on October 1st and runs through the end of the following September).

For instance, if you type in “October 1, 1999″ in the first box and “September 30, 2000″ in the next box, you will be asking to see the total national debt figures for Fiscal Year 2000. You’ll note, after typing in those parameters, that if you scroll all the way to the bottom, the total debt held by the public at the end of Fiscal Year 2000 was “$3,405,303,490,221.20.” You’ll also notice that Intragovernmental Holdings total was “$2,268,874,719,665.66.”

These are official Department of Treasury numbers.

Adding those two numbers together gives you a grand total of “$5,674,178,209,886.86.”

That is what the total national debt was at the end of FISCAL YEAR 2000. The National Debt is thus calculated by adding the Public Debt and Intragovernmental Holdings together.

Compare the total public debt of FY2000 to that of FY1999.

President Clinton did technically pay down the PUBLIC NATIONAL DEBT from FY1999 to FY2000.

FY1999 PUBLIC DEBT: $3,636,104,594,501.81

FY2000 PUBLIC DEBT: $3,405,303,490,221.20

It was paid down by a total of $230,801,104,280.61 – amazingly close to the announced $236 Billion surplus for that year. But it was done so by borrowing from the Social Security Trust Fund (primarily) which ran a surplus that year. The Social Security Administration is required by law to buy government securities with its surpluses (convenient, isn’t it?). That money was thus used by the government to do its business without having to get it from the public. Hence, the public debt was “paid down.”

I fully concede the point that President Clinton paid down the PUBLIC debt, but not the national debt.

Unfortunately, that $230 Billion “pay down” does not take into account Intragovernmental Holdings, which is as much part of calculating surpluses and debts as the Public Debt is.

Intragovernmental Debt ROSE in FY2000.

FY1999: $2,020,166,307,131.62

FY2000: $2,268,874,719,665.66

That’s an increase of $248,708,412,534.04

The difference between how much of the public debt was paid down compared to the growth of the Intragovernmental debt was: – $17,907,308,253.43

That means FY2000 resulted in a true deficit of almost $18 Billion under Bill Clinton.

Those pesky facts.
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3 comments:

  1. Nicely done, Andrew! Unfortunately, too many liberals are math impaired. They'll probably get no further than the headline, dismiss you as a Clinton hater and blunder off on their merry way!

    But, they'll have no comeback for the facts.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Interesting and clearly stated information for our arsenal (will we ever get to use our weapons?).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can't tell you how many libs try to defend Obama on the basis of this myth. If the economy does not improve substantially in the next 18 months, expect to hear it a lot more as the mid terms approach.

      Delete

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