February 3rd, 2010
04:36 PM ET
13 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. Average American

    More proof that republicans lie...Democratic presidents create balanced budgets...Republicans spend too much and are more focused on lining the pockets of their wealthy friends to worry about deficits...they just try to blame it on the next guy, the poor Democrat who has to clean up the mess.

    February 3, 2010 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  2. Phugitall

    Republicans want part of the credit then, but won't accept part of the blame now
    Isn't that special.

    February 3, 2010 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  3. Mike in MN

    The three largest deficits in history were in 2007, 2008 and 2009. Democrats controled congress all three of those years and Obama was President in 2009. The 2010 deficit is projected to be larger than the 2009 even though 2009 was a recession and 2010 is projected as a year with economic growth. The 2011 deficit is projected to equal the 2009 deficit and the 2012 deficit is projected to be far lager than either the 2007 or 2008. Democrats will have controlled congress in 2007, 8, 9, and 10. It remains to be seen which party will control congress in 2011 and 2012. Bush will have been president in 2007 and 2008. Obama in 2009, 10, 11 and 12. Looks like all time record deficits have a very tilted Democratic leadership to me.

    February 3, 2010 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  4. An 8 year old ELEPHANT dung heap, does not transform into compost in just 1 year!

    Keep putting out the facts President Obama and the facts will prove why and WHO brought this great country to the edge of the financial abyss.

    Then we can discuss how and who has pulled it back from the edge.

    February 3, 2010 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  5. southerncousin

    So glad for the history lesson from Obama and the democrats. That is all it is, history. Do they want to talk about the failure of the Great Society programs and how we wasted $3 trillion dollars on that liberal boondoggle too? What Americans want to know is what these idiots are going to do about the situation we are in now. That is why they are so inept and incompetent. They don't get. Blame Bush all you want, but the present bunch is corrupt and stupid.

    February 3, 2010 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  6. Tom in Wisconsin

    Typical...republicans want "credit" for balancing the budget in the 90s but won't take the "blame" for things like repealing Glass-Stegal or other detrimental deregulation. And of course, the same holds true for Democrats in congress.

    We have GOT to get past this "my team vs. your team" mentality. It goes beyond partisan politics. We have made every issue, every decision, every aspect of our society a competition. We don't care what the consequences are...so long as we can say "You Lose; I Win!". Republicans don't even know what republican policy is anymore. The last true republican president we had was BILL CLINTON! He actually enacted republican policies.

    People also continue to confuse religion and politics. Want a religious society? Go to church, not Washington D.C.!

    February 3, 2010 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  7. Kevin

    This is why we need another Clinton in the White House... Hillary Clinton!

    February 3, 2010 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  8. sara

    they gets credit for putting America's financial institutions in a Ditch, and creating the increase of it to put it on a financial footing. Deficits ran up under the last administration did NOTHING for the American people...no healthcare reform, no consumer laws, no increase in veteran's pay, no jobs initiatives for LONG Term stability of our country...no new technogolies to keep up with the world.....NOTHING. The republicans are "bilking" America for all that she is worth, leaving out the country they pretends to love. If the love is measured by most of their love for their family, it's no wonder This country is where it's at in this moment. Sad and pathetic.

    February 3, 2010 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  9. Rick McDaniel

    The only reason for deficits under Bush, was the war on terror, which we did not start.

    February 3, 2010 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  10. Kate

    Don't forget to point out that we've "suffered" budget deficits through both Democrat and Republican presidents since Nixon suspended convertibility to gold, and that there's an enormous difference between a balanced budget and "recording a surplus".

    It's important that people remember president Jackson was the last executive to pay off the national debt. He did it by eliminating the central bank and returning the united States to sound monetary policy. (His work was finally undone by Mr. Nixon and the wealthy oligarchs who manipulate monetary policy and thus our very lives, in secret, at the banking cartel known as the Federal Reserve Bank.)

    February 3, 2010 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  11. Too much government

    The budget was balanced during the Clinton years because of the republican controlled Congress.

    Plus, Clinton listened to the people after the massive shift in the Congress from Ds to Rs.

    Although it doesn't appear like it is going to happen, I hope Obama learns from Clinton and moves more to the center. Otherwise, he will go down as an economy killing president–like Carter.

    February 3, 2010 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  12. Marc

    I remember when all the Federal Parks and some agencies had to close because the Republican controlled Congress wanted something in the budget and then President Clinton said 'NO', then Republicans didn't voted the budget...

    February 3, 2010 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  13. Brian from NJ

    Pay close attention here...


    February 3, 2010 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  14. Kerzell

    So, just because they controlled the house and senate, they believe they should get the credit for the surplus. This is laughable. Do they also want credit because the sun came out today?

    The GOP does nothing but destroy, flip flop on issues, lie and would sell their own mother to win. And then just because they are somewhere in the vicinity of something good happening, they feel they should be creditied with that also.

    these guys stand on principles that even they don't live by but in no way do they stand for the american people!!

    February 3, 2010 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  15. Chuck Harold

    So the Republican-controlled Congress supported Clinton's measures to balance the federal budget? That would be the key bit of info missing here, a fact not "checked." I know they opposed Clinton at almost every juncture. Did the majority of GOPers support Clinton's budget that led to the balanced budget? If they did, they could make the argument; if not, then they are (once again) not being honest with the American people.

    February 3, 2010 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  16. Met

    Divided government is better for business no matter who is President. The American public loses when Congress & the Presidency are both controlled by one party no matter if its Democrats or Republicans. Your not going balance any budgets without economic growth & low unemployment. Obama's policies and rigidity make it virtually impossible to ever imitate the growth we saw during the Clinton years. Obama, Bush and Carter have more in common.

    February 3, 2010 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  17. Fred Timmons

    We the people (American) dont care who get the credit, for the the nation decifict and the Clinton adminstration. How about let do it again. Let fix the problem. To many of our people is standing in the soup line without work hope and the future is not looking good. Like the old saying talk is cheat. Solve this problem. I need work myself. Poltician Help us out. Dem or Rep..we dont care...

    February 3, 2010 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  18. single mom

    To my way of thinking, balancing the budget means spending less than you take in, saving, and not having any debit. Budget surpluses are wonderful, IF you take that extra and pay of debt. Did Clinton do that or use it for more spending?

    February 3, 2010 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  19. Mike1952

    Republicans should get SOME of the credit for the last balanced budget? Gingrich and the republicans were the reason it was balanced at all. The President can't spend a penny and the budget must be voted on by the Congress, not the President. Of course the flip in control of the Congress helped also.

    February 3, 2010 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  20. NauticalMan

    The Republicans are trying to take credit for some of the surplus during the Clinton administration?! Talk about revisionist history!

    When Clinton took office, one of the first things he did was increase taxes on the very rich after years of Reagans tax cuts for them. Not one Republican voted for this, saying it would destroy jobs, the economy, mothers and apple pie. Result, one of the biggest economic booms in the history of the United States, leaving a huge surplus for years to come, that is, until Bush 2. They may say it was because of the wars in the mideast, but most of it was because of the giant tax cuts, again mostly for the wealthy.

    To quote one of the engravings on the memorial to Franklin Delanor Roosevelt in Washington,

    "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much;
    It is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."

    February 3, 2010 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  21. Real-Repub

    Bill Clinton balanced the budget only after congress barely passed the largest single tax increase in US history. They never did curb spending, they just taxed the crap out of everyone who had a net income of 40k.

    February 3, 2010 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  22. Truth Squad

    notice how there are "Facts" that support Obama, but when the facts support the Republicans, it's "Republicans say...."

    Always the way with the liberal media....

    February 3, 2010 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  23. Chris D.

    The only way for good governing is a check and balance......nothing like a good fight, to make a leader better.

    February 3, 2010 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  24. Truth Squad

    The bottom line didn't show up until I made a comment.

    Hey congrats, they got it right.

    So, what I would propose is a Republican majority in Congress to keep the President's spending habits in check.

    February 3, 2010 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  25. T'SAH from Virginia

    "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."

    So, what is the problem NOW??? The SHADE is different in the WH and the RepubliCAN'Ts refuse to allow a person of COLOR get credit for "saving the economy".....???? Betcha By Golly WOW – YEP!!!

    February 3, 2010 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
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