We often hear the argument that former President Bill Clinton actually ran surpluses and paid down the debt. Clinton repeated this message to David Gregory on NBC’s “Meet the Press” recently.
DAVID GREGORY, HOST: I’m looking forward to discussing the Clinton Global Initiative and your work in Haiti, but I just wanted to begin our political discussion with some reaction by you to hearing General Powell on what have been pretty significant developments this week politically inside the Republican Party after this turbulent primary season. What do you make of it?
FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: Well, first of all, I think that a lot of the voters who are voting for the Tea Party candidates have really good impulses. That is, they believe that for years and years and years, the people with wealth and power or government power have done well and ordinary people have not. That’s true. They believe those in the Republican Party believe that they’ve talked a good game about balancing the budget, but the debt was quadrupled in the 12 years before I became president and then we paid down the debt for four years, paid down $600 billion on the national debt, and then my budget was abandoned and they doubled the debt again. So there’s a good impulse there.
The facts are in direct contradiction to Clinton’s claims. In fact, the national debt never declined when he was President. Not even one year. The following chart from TreasuryDirect.gov clearly illustrates the national debt actually increasing each year Clinton was President.
The only year that the debt truly declined was in 1957. It’s very clear that Democrats are being disingenuous by constantly recycling the argument that the debt declined under President Clinton. This myth has clearly been busted by the above chart from TreasuryDirect.gov.