This is getting pretty ridiculous. For old times sake, we recently checked on the Federal debt level during the month we arrived in the Imperial City as a 24-year old eager beaver. That was June 1970 and the Federal debt held by the public was $275 billion.
Mind you, while that number wasn’t exactly diminutive, it had taken all of 188 years to accumulate. That is to say, Uncle Sam had borrowed an average of $28,000 per week during the 9,776 weekssince George Washington was sworn in as the nation’s first president.
We are ruminating about this seeming historical obscuranta because it just so happens that the US treasury this very week will be selling $258 billion of government debt.
That’s right. Uncle Sam’s scheduled debt emission this week will nearly equal his cumulative borrowing during the nation’s first 188 years and its first 37 presidents!
And, yes, there has been some considerable inflation since June 1970. And not the least because exactly 13 months later Tricky Dick Nixon decided to pull the plug on Bretton Woods and the dollar’s anchor to a fixed weight of gold.
Needless to say, the financial discipline of gold-backed money during that interval of guns and butter excess would most certainly have triggered a recession and a heap of inconvenience for Nixon’s 1972 reelection prospects. As it happened, the American economy got a heap of inflation and destructive financialization over the next half century, instead.
Accordingly, the price level today is 5X higher as measured by the GDP deflator. So in today’s dollars of purchasing power, the 1970 debt figure would be about $1.2 trillion.
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