National Debt: A Short History (Spoiler: GOP created it to force cuts in social programs)

Professor Krugman, in knocking down some common excuses for not providing the fiscal boost our economy should be getting right now, addresses the one that says, “…the reality is that governments never pay down debt in good times.” (Emphasis added.)

What about the supposed inability of governments to pay down debt in good times? Well, here’s the ratio of gross debt (including the Social Security trust fund) to GDP:

Hmm. Between World War II and 1980, every US president left the debt ratio lower when he left office than when he entered. Reagan/Bush I broke that pattern; Clinton brought it back; then came Bush II. And yes, debt is up under Obama, but a depressed economy in a liquidity trap is precisely when you’re supposed to do that.

So the story isn’t “irresponsible politicians will always squander the good years”; it is “conservative Republican politicians run up debt even in good years, because they want to force cuts in social programs.” Kind of a different story, isn’t it?