After the last budget surplus ended in 2001, Bloomberg stated it was the longest period of surplus since 1927 -1930.
Prof. Fred Thayer wrote this before the surpluses of the late 90’s:
Here’s part of the intro:
From the origins to World War II
In its first 150 years, the government periodically undertook systematic multi-year reductions in the national debt by taking in more revenues than it spent.
Each of six such sustained periods led to one of the six major depressions in our history. The last three of these crashes were the truly significant depressions of the industrial era.
This is the record:
1. 1817-21: In five years, the national debt was reduced by 29 percent, to $90 million. A depression began in 1819.
2. 1823-36: In 14 years, the debt was reduced by 99.7 percent, to $38,000. A depression began in 1837.
3. 1852-57: In six years, the debt was reduced by 59 percent, to $28.7 million. A depression began in 1857..
4. 1867-73: In seven years, the debt was reduced by 27 percent, to $2.2 billion. A depression began in 1873.
5. 1880-93: In 14 years, the debt was reduced by 57 percent, to $1 billion. A depression began in 1893.
6. 1920-30: In 11 years, the debt was reduced by 36 percent, to $16.2 billion. A depression began in 1929.
There have been no such multi-year budget surpluses and debt reductions since World War II and, significantly, no major new depression. The record suggests that reducing the debt never sustained prosperity, even when the debt was virtually wiped out by 1836. The highest deficits were those of World War II, ranging from 20 to 31 percent of Gross National Product. For a few years following the war, the debt was greater than GNP, the only such case in history. The wartime borrowing and spending actually ended the Great Depression.