Reply To: Clinton's Budget Surplus?


For a chart of the federal government’s receipts, outlays, and budget surplus or deficit, click on the link for “Table 1.1” at the following website:

The chart shows that the federal government’s “Total Budget” was in surplus for the years 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 and that its “On-Budget” was in surplus for only the years 1999 and 2000. The difference between the two is the “Off-Budget,” which is mainly social security receipts, outlays, and surplus or deficit. All administrations use the social security surplus to partially offset the “On-Budget” deficit. So Clinton did not “raid” social security, at least not in any manner different than previous presidents.

(As an aside, the chart shows why Reagan called on Alan Greenspan to save social security in 1983. It had been in deficit since 1976 and Greenspan’s tax increase quickly brought it back into surplus by 1985.)

For a chart of the government’s net interest outlays, click on the link for “Table 3.1” at the following website:

The chart shows that net interest outlays fell from $241 billion in 1998 to $206 billion in 2001. And the “On-Budget” net interest outlays (which is the amount the Treasury paid to government bondholders) fell from $288 billion in 1997 to $275 billion in 2001. This reduction is much to small to account for the corresponding budget surpluses. Although, Clinton did have a policy of changing the time structure of federal government debt to take advantage of lower rates, but the policy did not generate the budget surpluses which were $69 billion in 1998, $126 billion in 1999, $236 billion in 2000, and $128 billion in 2001.