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. Susan

    The only time the republicans want to balance the budget is on the backs of the middle class. Give them a war and they'll spend like drunken sailors, but when it comes time to help the poor and middle class, well, too bad. They also don't seem to have any trouble opening their wallets to their rich buddies.

    They get credit for nothing!!!!

    February 3, 2010 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  2. Kim

    Facts are facts!

    February 3, 2010 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  3. gary davis harbor oregon

    fact check ON THE REPUBLICANS... CLINTON told the republicans when they had the majority in the house to either go along with what Clinton wanted and the american people or he wouldn't sign any thing . so the republicans don't get any credit for balancing anything 🙂
    other than all the lies the are the true winners in the contest of threats and lies . and lieng about a war . best one yet boo hoo baby's

    February 3, 2010 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  4. Slider


    As in, CNN is the waterboy of the Democrat Party and this president.

    You clowns sure are working overtime today. This is like the 6th negative ticker on the Republicans today.

    Here's a dose of reality: your people have been running things in Congress for three years. No balanced budget; no spending restraint; no communication or transparency to the people, and no articulate vision or plan.

    You know what a waterboy is, CNN? It's the guy that likes football, but can't play it, but still wants to be a part of the team.

    It's fitting that your news organization is the waterboy for all the others, and it's also fitting that your party and president are also waterboys in governing a nation.

    Just not good enough for either, but still part of the team, right CNN?

    February 3, 2010 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  5. Felonious Monk

    Republicans want credit, but are unwilling to accept responsibility.

    Republican/Conservative=no ethics, no morals, no concern for America, the America I grew up in is now long gone...

    February 3, 2010 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  6. Michael

    Of course, the fact that Cheney (with the support of other hard-line right-wing extremists) attempted to turn the VP job into Dictator of Congress has SOME bearing on Congressional performance under W's administration.

    February 3, 2010 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  7. Four and The Door

    What Barack Obama says and what Barack Obama does have very little correlation as we all know. He says whatever is convenient and does whatever is convenient regardless of what he said.

    February 3, 2010 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  8. Just The Facts II

    I believe the question was ....

    Who was president the last time the budget was balanced?

    I believe the point was ....

    is President Obama correct that Democratic Presidents balance budgets and the Republican Presidents have not.

    So why did it take CNN so long to answer the question? And why did CNN feel the need to try to include the Republicans in the limelight.?

    The GOP likes to slam Democrats with the "TAX & SPEND" label as though they are financially irresponsible. This FACT shoots holes in that LIE.

    February 3, 2010 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  9. Ryan-TX

    Let's see if this experiment works.

    Obama's far-right policies are destroying this country! All he speaks is the truth!

    Maybe if I say this enough people will parrot it like idiots just like when they say "far-left agenda" and "Obama only lies".

    February 3, 2010 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  10. Aaron

    Yes, Republicans should get some credit for for the balanced budgets during the Clinton administration, because Republican majorities controlled both the House and Senate.

    Under the same logic, they should also receive much of the blame for the deficits recorded from 2002 until 2007 when Bush was in office and the Republicans had majorities in the House and Senate. It seems Republicans are quick to take credit and pass blame, but fail to acknowledge their shortcomings.

    February 3, 2010 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  11. valwayne

    So if we follow President Obama's logic we should trust a Democratic President on budget issues when he has a Republican Congress. It worked in the 90s lets try it again. In Nov 2010 lets kick out every corrupt spending Democrat up for election and vote in the Republicans. Nifty idea Obama!!! Let's do it!!!!

    February 3, 2010 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  12. Franky, Land of Lincoln

    If I'm not mistaken, former President Clinton didn't have a stimulis bill that exceeded well over a trillion dollars, it would have been monumental, to say the least. And Bill was different, I guess you can say, different in matter of style and psyche. He's kind of like a JFK with a lil FDR...on crack, to say the least.

    So that was the last time? Isn't it kind of difficult to maintain a balance for an amount of period of time? For years, example? But if I was not mistaken, trade was pretty good in those times. It was the start of a new beginning and President Clinton was a good one, I'll give em that.

    Who knows, maybe it'll be a good thing for Dems to lose seats in the Senate, it won't be more like a wake up call but a nightmare call. Maybe it'll be good for them, maybe it will, who knows.

    February 3, 2010 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  13. me

    Thank you, Capitan Obvious...

    February 3, 2010 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  14. billy123

    Please Republicans you cannot have it both ways all you did the entire time President Clinton was in office was to investergate him his entire eight year term.

    My mother taught me the difference between a the Dems and the GOP is this: The GOP borror and spend and when the Dems get elected in the White House they have to raise taxes to pay off the GOP debt. Then the GOP rushes to the camera to state this is the biggest tax increase in history.

    Please Congress pass a law PAY GO. That also means if the Congress votes for war then they have to pay for it too.

    February 3, 2010 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  15. Cliff

    Who does your research?
    Slick Willie had a surplus?
    How could that be possible when we had BILLIONS of dollars of debt?
    You can't have a "surplus" when you have outstanding debt.
    Apparently our Congress is not aware of that...and neither is CNN!

    February 3, 2010 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  16. Razorback

    I remember a lot of whining by Democrats in those days about Republican caused gridlock. Gridlock balanced budgets.

    February 3, 2010 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  17. Ruth

    It dosen't take a rocket expert to figure that out. Clinton left a surplus for loser Bush.

    February 3, 2010 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  18. Bear

    The actual bottom line should refer to the President's next line insinuating that the Republicans obstructed votes to get to the balanced budget and that it was primarily congressional democrats to thank for getting there. The Republicans were in control!

    Therefore, the President's accusation was completely false, and in skipping that accusation your fact checking should be called into question.

    February 3, 2010 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  19. Jay

    Maybe the Republicans deserve some credit for keeping Pres. Clinton in check, but the question I have is this: Why didn't they do the same thing for Pres. Bush, who is one of their own? Why relax the controls if they had the budgets balanced then? Seems pretty dumb to me, IMHO.

    February 3, 2010 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  20. Paul from Phoenix

    Thank you Obama for making my point. This country runs better when one party controls the White House and the other controls Congress

    February 3, 2010 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  21. Anonymous

    – 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.

    Right. They deserve some of the credit during the Clinton administration but by all means never accept any responsibility for the enormous deficits rung up in the Reagan, Bush, and Bush II administrations. Priceless.

    February 3, 2010 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  22. kim

    Funny how he is willing to give Clinton credit now. But in 2008 when he was campaigning, he acted like Clinton didn't do crap, he is such phony.

    February 3, 2010 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  23. proud mother and sister of soldiers

    Of course Clinton gets the record, he did nothing, tied up Congress with his sex hearing, deported KSM and cut the military. He couldn't pass health care nor had any accomplishment that were noteworthy. Like Obama, he was an eloquent speaker and there seems to be a vast majority in this country that get suckered in by these men and cannot educate themselves to think freely. Now the repubs are obstructionists and Obama spoke loudly in New Hampshire. It just shows the bully is upset that he isn't getting his way. Who votes against him....repubs and dems. Why? They know he is a disaster waiting to happen. He pushes his health care but he doesn't tell you that Canadians, regardless of salary, pay a minimum of 37% tax and that applies to seniors. So that is 37% extra in your pocket to buy health care! Obama is criminal and acting against the good of this country. He is a narcissist and we are seeing his hateful side voting against his wishes! Talk about a president dividing a country!!!!!

    February 3, 2010 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  24. newgoldie

    the republicans are right they should get some of the credit
    for balancing the budget
    but its amazing that they dont want to take credit for the bill(republican sponsored bill) to deregulate the banks and repell of glass stegail
    (thanks mccain)

    maybe if they all stop crying like babies and get something done
    we could get the budget balanced

    sorry just woke up from my dream!!!

    February 3, 2010 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  25. Orange Curtain, CA

    Yes but it was Clinton whom pushed the Cold War dividend and had the guts to stand-up to those same liar Republicans to slash defense spending. Now they jacked up spending back to more than what we spent in the Cold War and gave the nation record debt.

    February 3, 2010 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
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