Originally published 12/17/2012
Those looking for guidance on how to chisel the federal debt today might re-examine how Thomas Jefferson and his Democratic-Republican party tackled the issue. Jefferson, who fought personal debt all his days, made the erasure of the federal debt his number one priority after his first election in 1800. He believed debt siphoned money from taxpayers by forcing them to pay interest, giving more funds -- and hence, power -- to bankers, who Jefferson deeply distrusted. The choice for Americans, Jefferson believed, was between “economy and liberty” and “profusion and servitude.”Jefferson understood that debt was necessary to pay for war and to invest in the public good, but he believed that “neither the representatives of a nation, nor the whole nation itself, assembled can validly engage debts beyond what they may pay in their own time....” That was a generation, according to Jefferson, and his debt reduction plan, devised by his Secretary of Treasury Albert Gallatin, was to eliminate the debt he inherited in sixteen years.