February 3rd, 2010
04:36 PM ET
5 years ago

CNN Fact Check: The last president to balance the budget

(CNN) - President Obama declared on Wednesday that Democrats can be trusted on the budget because, "the last time the budget was balanced was under a Democratic president."

Fact Check: Who was president the last time the budget was balanced?

– The U.S. government suffered budget deficits every year from 1970 through 1997.
- Democrat Bill Clinton was president in 1998, when the government finally recorded a surplus.
- There also were budget surpluses in 1999, 2000 and in 2001. 2001 was the last year the Clinton administration proposed the budget.
- Republican George W. Bush succeeded Clinton in 2001. The United States had a budget deficit in 2002, and it has recorded budget deficits every year since. The deficit is projected to increase substantially this year under President Barack Obama.
- Republicans say they should get at least some of the credit for the balanced budgets during the Clinton administration, because Republican majorities controlled both the House and Senate.

Read the bottom line after the jump.

Bottom Line: Democrat Bill Clinton was president the last time the federal budget was balanced, and Republicans controlled Congress.


Filed under: Budget • Fact Check • President Obama
soundoff (77 Responses)
  1. Robin in Tampa, FL

    CNN is publishing Republican Talking points now? It is the President who submits a budget to congress at the beginning of the year, not the other way around! The Republicans & Bush are wholly to blame for squandering OUR money and driving up deficits from the day Bush submitted his budget. Now they are trying to squirm their way out by trying to take credit for Clinton's budgets. It doesn't work that way!

    February 3, 2010 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  2. Nunya

    Cut it out with this 'bottom line after the jump' manipulation. We don't need to load a new page just to see one more line that you just as easily could have put in the main summary.

    You're just increasing page hits to show better with your advertisers...

    February 3, 2010 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  3. Spirit of America

    There were plenty of budget surpluses under President Eisenhower, the man who warned us 50 years ago about the threat to our economy and democracy posed by the military industrial complex, the main cause of subsequent deficits including the enormous current one.

    February 3, 2010 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  4. David

    My dad says a Democrat President and Republican Congress is the best thing for the economy.

    February 3, 2010 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  5. MikeH

    As I recall, President Clinton vetoed the Republican budget bill not once but twice because it was so lopsided towards the wealthy and generally irresponsible. Nonessential Goverment offices, national parks, embassies, were shut down for awhile until a Democratically-inspired budget finally came across Clinton's desk..

    Sure the Republicans get some credit, credit for listening to Democrats on how to write a decent budget, the kind President Clinton finally signed.

    February 3, 2010 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  6. Obama/Biden

    Washington is divided by partisan politics including a racial politic. President Obama agenda cannot clear republican congress just because the president defeated John McCain that is why McCain as a pay back oppose everything the president propose. They do not want barack to succeed. It is like the 60's all over again. Some people do not the president and his agendas just because the president is African American and this factor will cause the president to serve only on term. It is not because he is doing bad, Washington racism and partisan is the fact. We already starting to see that example Massachussetts senate eletion.

    February 3, 2010 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  7. Eugene

    CNN...thanks for checking this fact...However, Obama keeps referring to Kennedy and Reagan as his role models.The last instance was during the State of the Union address. Ironically, Obama has never mentioned Bill Clinton as being a role model to him...at a time when everyone remembers Clinton's Presidency as one of the most productive ones.

    February 3, 2010 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  8. Albo58

    The President can not introduce legislation in the Congress so if legislation was passed to balance the budget, then all Clinton did was sign bills passed by a Republican-controlled Congress! The Dimwits tend to forget that little factoid when bragging about Slick Willie's "achievements"!

    February 3, 2010 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  9. Mike in MN

    I'm glad to see CNN report that Clinton was the President the last time the budget was balanced and that Republicans controlled Congress the last time the budget was balanced.
    Based on what he said today, Obama seems to think Clinton did it all by himself.

    February 3, 2010 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  10. Rethugs = Fantasy Facts

    The Republicans squandered the surplus that we had with President Clinton, and that's all there is to it. They talk a good game, but they are not good at policing themselves. We spent more money under GW, and that's what tanked the economy. Obama was forced to spend money to save the economy from going under.

    All we wanted GW to do was just sit at his desk and look out the window, but he couldn't do that. He ruined this country, and now the Dems have to clean it up.

    February 3, 2010 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  11. Mike in SA

    He who controls Congress controls spending. All a president can do is suggest or request a path. Congress will do what it's going to do.

    Remember the government shutdowns of 1995? No matter your thoughts about Gingrich, the Republicans brought Clinton kicking and screaming towards that balanced budget. Clinton had planned on balancing the budget 7 years down the road from 1996. The Republicans in congress got us there in 2.

    February 3, 2010 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  12. Paul Ernest Show

    Republicans should get discredit for 8 years of failed economic policies. The party's partisan stance is a threat to America's economic future. Give them the credit for their rigid, disruptive stance, for political expediency. Yea, the shot the sheriff but didn't shoot the deputy. Good innocent job.

    February 3, 2010 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  13. mjm

    Obama is no Bill Clinton. Clinton was a fiscal conservative, like JFK and Reagan. Obama isn't even a Democrat. He is a liberal.

    February 3, 2010 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    Then what happened to the Republican Congress for the next 6 years i.e. 2002 – 2007?

    February 3, 2010 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  15. Hypocrites

    Everything Republicans talks about the budget are myths! or fear mongering

    February 3, 2010 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  16. Dan, TX

    Republican party says they are for a balanced budget, but I still have not heard ONE republican explain why they didn't tear Bush a new one from year 1 of his presidency. Republicans are weak.

    February 3, 2010 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  17. james

    Republicans say they should get at least some of the credit for the balanced budgets during the Clinton administration, because Republican majorities controlled both the House and Senate.

    ^ Bwahahahaha. That's pathetic. They try to steal credit for Clinton's budgets, on one hand, and blame Obama for Bush's destruction of the American economy on the other.

    February 3, 2010 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  18. A keen observer

    The Republican idiots do not understand balanced budgets because they haven't balanced one since Reagan took over as president. If Republican business owners ran their businesses like Republican presidents do when power, they would all be bankrupt.

    The Republican mantra of tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts does nothing except create massive debt. What part of stupid do Republicans fail to understand?

    February 3, 2010 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  19. Zach

    Obama is 100% correct. Bush was supposed to be a "fiscal conservative" and instead he dug us into the biggest national debt ever. The 3 largest national debts have all been under Republicans.

    February 3, 2010 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  20. Michael

    George Bush and his republican cronies left the countrie in dire straits. The republicans left a Mortgage, Auto, Banking, Wall Street, and Healthcare crisis! They also left Wars in Iraq and Afganistan, nuclear conflicts in North Korea and Iran! Republicans left a 8 trillion deficit, which was a results of spending programs 2 wars, not paid for and all approved by republican senate and congress. I DO NOT TRUST REPUBLICANS TO BALANCE MY CHECKBOOK!

    February 3, 2010 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  21. steamboat

    I wonder what happened between budget FY2001 and 2002? Hmmmm?

    February 3, 2010 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  22. Rick

    The Republican's caused this mess, that's what they can take credit for.

    February 3, 2010 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  23. Michele

    As if Republicans have ever cared whether the budget is balanced. If they did, while they controlled Congress under Bush, they would have demanded accurate figures in those budgets on war spending instead of NONE, and they would have not signed off on all his tax cuts and unfunded mandates to states regarding No Child and the very expensive Medicaid drug plan. This irate talk about budgets is pretty silly coming from them, if you ask me.
    Besides, they really don;t want Obama to balance the budget, because then they look even weaker than they already do.

    February 3, 2010 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  24. Michael from Ventura

    I'd give the gop some credit if they could say anything but NO...If you aren't part of the solution, you are part of the problem! They need to get that!

    February 3, 2010 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  25. rachel

    I know iknow the primaries are over but boy Obama sure didnt tout any of bill accomplishments during that time.

    February 3, 2010 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
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