This visualisation of the U.S. deficit to GDP (or GNP) ratio shows how, historically, we’re very close to Civil War levels, in terms of our deficit as a per cent of GDP.
Notable here is how, historically, the U.S. has hung around the -5% to 5% range. It has only strayed from that course during the Civil War, World War I, and World War II. And while it recovered sharply during the Clinton administration, it has plunged back into negative territory as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the bailouts and stimulus.
Another way to look at the problem, from Bianco Research (via Barry Ritholtz):
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