The time the US paid off all its debt (Indicator favorite) : Planet Money : The Indicator from Planet Money Hey Indigators! It's Encore Week at The Indicator. We're sharing some of our favorite episodes of the year.

Today, we're kicking things off with a listener favorite about the time President Andrew Jackson paid off all of America's interest-bearing debt...with disastrous results.

This episode originally came out in August.

The time the US paid off all its debt (Indicator favorite)

The time the US paid off all its debt (Indicator favorite)

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Karen Bleier/AFP via Getty Images
This March 29, 2009 photo illustration shows Andrew Jackson on the front of the USD 20 note in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/Karen BLEIER (Photo by KAREN BLEIER / AFP) (Photo by KAREN BLEIER/AFP via Getty Images)
Karen Bleier/AFP via Getty Images

Hey Indigators! It's Encore Week at The Indicator. We're sharing some of our favorite episodes of the year. Today, we're kicking things off with a listener favorite about the time President Andrew Jackson paid off all of America's debt...with disastrous results. (This episode originally came out in August.)


The United States federal government currently has over 28 trillion dollars of debt and there are concerns about the ever-increasing debt level. The majority of that national debt is issued in the form of bonds and bonds are considered among the safest investment assets in the world. However, the U.S government once paid off all of its interest-bearing debt.

President Andrew Jackson was a staunch opponent of the existing banking system. He also wanted to get rid of the national debt. In fact, his administration paid off all the interest-bearing debt on January 1, 1835. Historian Ann Daly lists three reasons for this to happen. The federal government collected many millions in tariffs, sold massive amounts of public land, and President Jackson vetoed spending bills left and right. Then he decided to give the surplus back to the states. Jackson's actions and the zeroing out of the US debt contributed to the Panic of 1837, one of the worst recessions in American history.

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