Unsustainable Debt Growth

The table below is broken out by decade. It took $1.36 of debt to create $1 of economic growth during the 1950s. The acceleration began in the 1960s and 1970s with the Vietnam War and the “Space Race,” and continued in the 1980s and 1990s with the leveraged buyout boom and the Internet bubble.

Fast-forward to the most recent decade (through September of last year) and it’s taken nearly $6 of debt to create $1 of economic growth. This is clearly not sustainable, and is a threat to the long-term stability of the US economy.

Date range Decade change in debt
($, billions)
Decade change in GDP
($, billions)
12/31/49-12/31/59 337.6 248.0 1.36
12/31/59-12/31/69 752.1 491.3 1.53
12/31/69-12/31/79 2,785.2 1,654.9 1.68
12/31/79-12/31/89 8,562.8 2,922.2 2.93
12/31/89-12/31/99 12,550.0 4,026.0 3.12
12/31/99-9/30/09 27,228.0 4,658.6 5.84

Source: Ned Davis Research, Inc., as of September 30, 2009.


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