Historical Per-Person Share of the National Debt

In the following table, columns 1 & 2 are the president and his last year in office, columns 3 & 4 are the debt and (estimated) population for that year (from the websites shown below), and column 5 is the computed per-person share of the U.S. National debt in that year's dollars. The numbers are correlated to the year, but not the day (i.e., President Clinton left office in January of 2001, the debt number is from 09/30/2001, and the population estimate is from 1 July).

I considered, but ultimately rejected, another column showing the debt share in 2006 dollars because the several internet-based inflation calculators I consulted gave different results. However it is interesting to consider that in 1901 an ounce of gold cost (roughly) the per-person share of the debt, while today the per-person share is (about) 51 ounces of gold.

Some might argue that it isn't fair to blame the president for the debt. I agree that congress is partly (or mostly) to blame; however, the president is responsible because of his ability to veto. And yes, he can line item veto – simply cross out the offending lines and veto the entire bill (with a note to congress that the bill will be signed after the offending lines are removed). Whether the fault is the president or congress, would honorable men (and women) vote (and sign) for such indebtedness?

President (1)

Year (2)

Debt (3)

Population (4)

Share (5)

Bush

2006

8,348,224,303,886

295,734,134

$28,229

Clinton

2001

5,807,463,412,200

284,796,887

$20,392

Bush

1993

4,411,488,883,139

257,782,608

$17,113

Reagan

1989

2,857,430,960,187

246,819,230

$11,577

Carter

1981

1,028,729,000,000

229,465,714

$4,483

Ford

1977

718,943,000,000

220,239,425

$3,264

Nixon

1974

492,665,000,000

213,853,928

$2,304

Johnson

1969

368,225,581,254

202,676,946

$1,817

Kennedy

1963

309,346,845,059

189,241,790

$1,635

Eisenhower

1961

296,168,761,215

183,691,481

$1,612

Truman

1953

275,168,120,129

160,184,192

$1,718

Roosevelt

1945

258,682,187,410

139,928,165

$1,849

Hoover

1933

22,538,672,560

125,578,763

$179

Coolidge

1929

16,931,088,484

121,767,000

$139

Harding

1923

22,349,707,365

111,947,000

$200

Wilson

1921

23,977,450,553

108,538,000

$221

Taft

1913

2,916,204,914

97,225,000

$30

Roosevelt

1909

2,639,546,241

90,490,000

$29

McKinley

1901

2,143,326,934

77,584,000

$28

1. & (2) from http://www.whitehouse.gov/history/presidents/index2.html 3. from http://www.publicdebt.treas.gov/opd/opd.htm#history 4. from http://www.census.gov/popest/archives/1990s/popclockest.txt 5. computed per-person share of nation debt (in year specified dollars)

March 27, 2006

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