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Deficit: Why Should I Care? by Marie Bussing-Burks

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History of the Debt

The Bureau of the Public Debt was organized in 1789. In fact, the Bureau of the Public Debt notes its first recorded debt in 1791, at just over $75 million to honor the Revolutionary War obligations.1 It was founding father, economist, and statesman Alexander Hamilton who believed in a strong central government and rallied for the government to take on some debt to help meet its expenses. He said, “A national debt, if it is not excessive, will be to us a national blessing.”2 Hamilton was the chief architect of the U.S. Treasury Department, and was named the young nation's first Secretary of the Treasury.

The debt shrank to zero by January 1835, but soon sprang into the millions again. It was during the Civil War period that ...

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