Miller Center

Is the U.S. Headed Toward Bankruptcy?

On June 28, 2012, the city of Stockton, California filed for Chapter 9 protection, becoming the largest U.S. city ever to declare bankruptcy. Since 2010, seven U.S. cities and counties have filed for bankruptcy, and analysts predict more may be in the offing. Far from being isolated incidents of a few profligate municipalities, the global economic downturn has demonstrated the sobering reality of fiscal imbalance, one that is threatening larger cities and even countries around the world. more →

Scholars' Reactions


Moderator: Jake Tapper is senior White House Correspondent at ABC News and a regular contributor to ABC programs “Good Morning America,” “Nightline,” and “World News with Diane Sawyer.” more →

Chris Van Hollen has represented Maryland's Eighth District in Congress since 2002 and as the ranking member of the House Budget Committee since 2011. more →

Pat Toomey was elected to represent Pennsylvania in the U.S. Senate in 2011 on a platform focusing on fiscal discipline. more →

Austan Goolsbee served as chair of the Council of Economic Advisors and chief economist for the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board from 2010 to 2011. more →

Grover Norquist is founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), a taxpayer advocacy group. more →

Neil Barofsky served as Special Inspector General for the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) from 2008 to 2011. more →

Kimberley Strassel writes “Potomac Watch”, a weekly column for the Wall Street Journal, and serves on their editorial board. more →

Research and Scholarship

lessons from History: Official White Paper

Is the U.S. Headed Toward Bankruptcy?

Julia Cathleen Ott, Assistant Professor in the History of Capitalism, The New School, author, When Wall Street Met Main Street, August 2012

A little more than one year ago, the United States approached bankruptcy when Congress refused to raise the limit on the amount that the federal government could borrow. Finally, on August 2, 2011—just one day before the projected default—Congress passed and President Obama signed the Budget Control Act of 2011. more →

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Mortimer Caplin Conference on the World Economy

The Miller Center’s annual Mortimer Caplin Conference on the World Economy brings together senior government officials, along with the best thinkers from the academy and the private sector, to discuss, debate, and deliberate over the most pressing issues facing the United States and the global economy.

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Presidential Oral History Program

A selection of interviews on the budgeting, tax, and economic policy priorities of various presidents from those who assisted and advised them on those topics can be found below.

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Presidential Recordings Program

Lyndon Johnson explains his plans for “cutting waste” through his fiscal policy in this December 1963 telephone conversation with Walter Heller, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors.

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American President

The threat of depression is something many presidents must face during their time in office. Following his reelection in 1872, President Grant faced a fiscal challenge when the Panic of 1873 touched off a nation-wide depression. The economic downturn had many causes, including an economic depression in Europe, rapid industrial and agricultural growth, overexpansion of the railroads, and the effects of the Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War in Europe. Read more about the state of U.S. domestic affairs during Grant’s administration here.

Woodrow Wilson pushed for banking reform through the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, which established twelve regional reserve banks controlled by the Federal Reserve Board, a new federal agency whose members were appointed by the President. This new federal system could adjust interest rates and the nation’s money supply. Because it was authorized to issue currency based on government securities and “commercial paper” (the loans made to businesses by banks), the amount of money in circulation would expand or contract with the business cycle. Read more about Wilson's achievements in office here.

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Miller Center Forums

Listen to these Miller Center Forums on the stability and vitality of the U.S. economy presented by public policy leaders from the academy, research institutions, and journalism.

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The Miller Center Colloquia allows scholars to present their works-in-progress, and the speakers below shared their research on the debt crises occurring in the U.S. and internationally.