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quotations about the national debt

Nothing is so well calculated to produce a death-like torpor in the country as an extended system of taxation and a great national debt.

WILLIAM COBBETT, letter, Feb. 10, 1804

A national debt, if it is not excessive, will be to us a national blessing.

ALEXANDER HAMILTON, letter to Robert Morris, Apr. 30, 1781

We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt.

THOMAS JEFFERSON, letter to Samuel Kerchevel, Jul. 12, 1816

As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is, to use it as sparingly as possible; avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but remembering also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it; avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertions in time of peace to discharge the debts, which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burthen, which we ourselves ought to bear.

GEORGE WASHINGTON, Farewell Address, Sep. 17, 1796

Blessed are the young for they shall inherit the national debt.

HERBERT HOOVER, as quoted in Francis X. Cavanaugh's The Truth About the National Debt

It is a terrible situation when the Government, to insure the National Wealth, must go in debt and submit to ruinous interest charges, at the hands of men, who control the fictitious value of gold. Interest is the invention of Satan.

THOMAS EDISON, as quoted in Moriah Saul's Plantation Earth

I am not worried about the deficit. It is big enough to take care of itself.

RONALD REAGAN, joke at the Gridiron Club annual dinner, Mar. 24, 1984

Our national debt after all is an internal debt owed not only by the Nation but to the Nation. If our children have to pay interest on it they will pay that interest to themselves. A reasonable internal debt will not impoverish our children or put the Nation into bankruptcy.

FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT, speech, May 22, 1939

No nation ought to be without a debt. A national debt is a national bond; and when it bears no interest, is in no case a grievance.

THOMAS PAINE, Common Sense

It took the national debt two hundred years to reach $1 trillion. Supply Side Economics quadrupled the national debt to over $4 trillion in twelve years (1980-1992) under the Republicans. Bill Clinton actually paid down the national debt. How did he do it? He raised taxes. It produced the longest sustained economic expansion in U.S. History.

ED SCHULTZ, Straight Talk from the Heartland

The burden of the national debt consists not in its being so many millions, or so many hundred millions, but in the quantity of taxes collected every year to pay the interest. If this quantity continue the same, the burden of the national debt is the same to all intents and purposes, be the capital more or less.

THOMAS PAINE, Rights of Man

The [American] national deficit is one of the least understood economic concepts, yet it's one of the best indicators of long-term economic health. You may be wondering, _who owns the national debt?_ The media have led many to believe the Japanese do. _Wrong!_ ... over 80 percent of the total outstanding national debt is in the form of bonds owned by Americans. Americans consider the bonds they buy as assets, not liabilities -- and 80 percent of the interest on the national debt goes right back to Americans as income -- upon which they pay taxes.

LARRY CHAMBERS, The Guide to Financial Public Relations

I have long argued that paying down the national debt is beneficial for the economy: it keeps interest rates lower than they otherwise would be and frees savings to finance increases in the capital stock, thereby boosting productivity and real incomes.

ALAN GREENSPAN, speech, Apr. 27, 2001

For several years past the revenues of the government have been unequal to its expenditures, and consequently loan after loan, sometimes direct and sometimes indirect in form, has been resorted to. By this means a new national debt has been created, and is still growing on us with a rapidity fearful to contemplate--a rapidity only reasonably to be expected in a time of war. This state of things has been produced by a prevailing unwillingness either to increase the tariff or resort to direct taxation. But the one or the other must come. Coming expenditures must be met, and the present debt must be paid; and money cannot always be borrowed for these objects. The system of loans is but temporary in its nature, and must soon explode. It is a system not only ruinous while it lasts, but one that must soon fail and leave us destitute. As an individual who undertakes to live by borrowing soon finds his original means devoured by interest, and, next, no one left to borrow from, so must it be with a government. We repeat, then, that a tariff sufficient for revenue, or a direct tax, must soon be resorted to; and, indeed, we believe this alternative is now denied by no one.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN, Whig circular, 1843

Many respected economists and statesmen believe our national debt is neither unwieldy nor a dangerous burden on the country. The trouble is that a vast majority of the American people think otherwise.... It violates basic American ideas of thrift and money management. These strong public feelings cannot be ignored forever.

MORRIS K. UDALL, speech, Jan. 22, 1962

The consequences arising from the continual accumulation of public debts in other countries ought to admonish us to be careful to prevent their growth in our own.

JOHN ADAMS, First Address to Congress, Nov. 23, 1797


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