Terms of the Debt-Ceiling Debate, Through the Centuries

More

Thanks to Google Ngrams, which tracks the frequency of word use in all books in the Google Books corpus, political terms are traceable throughout the ages.

Putting aside any skepticism about Google's ability to catalogue every word used in history, the graphs do show us that some of these terms were popular in American English books as far back as America's early days, when national debt was a matter of debate for Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, rather than Barack Obama and John Boehner.

Uses of "national debt," for instance, peaked in the 1790s, when Congress created the first national bank of the U.S. and when America still carried a national debt from the Revolutionary War. Uses of "austerity" peaked around the same time. "Debt Limit," meanwhile, peaked around 1920. Congress created the statutory federal debt limit with the Second Liberty Bond Act of 1917.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

An Eerie Tour of Chernobyl's Wasteland

"Do not touch the water. There is nothing more irradiated than the water itself."


Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Is Technology Making Us Better Storytellers?

The minds behind House of Cards and The Moth weigh in.

Video

A Short Film That Skewers Hollywood

A studio executive concocts an animated blockbuster. Who cares about the story?

Video

In Online Dating, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

The co-founder of OKCupid shares findings from his analysis of millions of users' data.

Video

What Is a Sandwich?

We're overthinking sandwiches, so you don't have to.

Video

Let's Talk About Not Smoking

Why does smoking maintain its allure? James Hamblin seeks the wisdom of a cool person.

Writers

Up
Down

More in Politics

Just In