Income Equality: Bad for Everyone

In this podcast of Weekends on All Things Considered, how income inequality doesn’t just hurt the poor, why marijuana shops outnumber Starbucks in Denver, and one man’s dream car: a giant banana. Plus: the conman who scammed his way into American high society, and R&B singer Ledisi.

When the US Paid Off the Entire National Debt

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.

The History of the Debt Ceiling

The U.S. government hit the debt ceiling today. This makes life very complicated for the Treasury Department, which now needs to shuffle money around to pay the bills.

But originally, as it turns out, the debt ceiling was supposed to make things easier. A hundred years ago, it seemed so straightforward.

When Congress wanted to spend, it spent. And if it needed to borrow, it approved the sale of a bunch of Treasury bonds. Congress would consider each new bond individually.


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