A balanced budget is the price many Republicans want President Joe Biden to pay in exchange for raising the debt ceiling – and that’s the message House Speaker Kevin McCarthy will likely deliver when he sits down with Biden later today.

The federal government has managed to balance its books so that revenue exceeds spending only once since 1969. Former President Bill Clinton oversaw four years of government surpluses during his second term in office – and it’s been a sea of red ever since.

Could the government do it again?

Not likely, writes Linda J. Bilmes, a senior lecturer in public policy and public finance at Harvard Kennedy School. Bilmes, who worked for the Clinton administration when it achieved this rare feat in the late 1990s, describes their balanced-budget recipe and explains why the numbers Congress must grapple with in 2023 make a repeat performance exceedingly difficult.

Also today:

Bryan Keogh

Deputy Managing Editor and Senior Editor of Economy and Business

I helped balance the federal budget in the 1990s – here’s just how hard it will be for the GOP to achieve that same rare feat

Linda J. Bilmes, Harvard Kennedy School

House Speaker McCarthy wants to put the US on a path to a balanced budget as debt ceiling negotiations begin with President Biden. Here’s why it won’t be easy to repeat what Bill Clinton accomplished.

Environment + Energy

Politics + Society


Arts + Culture

  • City planners are questioning the point of parking garages

    Kevin J. Krizek, University of Colorado Boulder; John Hersey, University of Colorado Boulder

    As many cities grapple with the housing crisis, some places are rewriting regulations and finding creative ways to repurpose these hulking masses of concrete that suck up valuable real estate.

Economy + Business

Trending on site

Today's graphic