Episode 273: When The U.S. Paid Off The Entire National Debt

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Andrew Jackson.
Phil Dokas/Flickr

On Jan. 8, 1835, all the big political names in Washington gathered to celebrate what President Andrew Jackson had just accomplished. A senator rose to make the big announcement: "Gentlemen ... the national debt ... is PAID."

That was the one time in U.S. history when the country was debt free. It lasted exactly one year.

On today's Planet Money: The legend of the national debt. Where the debt came from, what happened the one time we paid it all off, and why Congress created the debt ceiling in the first place.

This episode originally aired on May 13, 2011.

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