1991: Operation Desert Storm
- Budget deficit: $269.2 billion (4.4% of GDP)
- Total U.S. debt: $3.7 trillion (59.5% of GDP)
President George H. W. Bush announced the start of Operation Desert Storm, designed to remove Iraqi forces from Kuwait, on Jan. 15. The forces were removed, but not before hundreds of U.S. military lives were lost, with Saddam Hussein left in power.
1992: NAFTA Treaty signed
- Budget deficit: $290.3 billion (4.5% of GDP)
- Total U.S. debt: $4.1 trillion (62.3% of GDP)
President George H.W. Bush signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), expanding free trade between the United States and Canada to also include Mexico. The same year, William Clinton became president.
1993: World Trade Center bombing
- Budget deficit: $255.1 billion (3.7% of GDP)
- Total U.S. debt: $4.4 trillion (64.3% of GDP)
On Feb. 26, 1993, a terrorist attack was carried out on the World Trade Center in New York City, killing six and injuring more than 1,000 people. Six defendants were convicted, but a seventh was never captured.
1994: The Northridge earthquake
- Budget deficit: $203.2 billion (2.8% of GDP)
- Total U.S. debt: $4.7 trillion (64.4% of GDP)
A 6.7 magnitude earthquake struck Northridge, California, on Jan. 17, causing damages estimated to be upward of $20 billion, making it the most expensive earthquake in U.S. history. The same year, Americans were mesmerized by a slow-speed police pursuit of O.J. Simpson in his white Ford Bronco.
1995: Mexican peso crisis
- Budget deficit: $164 billion (2.1% of GDP)
- Total U.S. debt: $5 trillion (65.1% of GDP)
After a sudden devaluation of the Mexican peso in December of 1994, the U.S. Congress passed the Mexican Debt Disclosure Act of 1995, enacted by President Bill Clinton. The president and the International Monetary Fund organized a $50 billion bailout package to help remedy the situation.
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1996: Mission to Mars
- Budget deficit: $107.4 billion (1.3% of GDP)
- Total U.S. debt: $5.2 trillion (64.7% of GDP)
In the first successful mission to Mars in two decades, the Mars Global Surveyor orbiter launched in November, collecting information from the Red Planet for the next nine years. The mission provided NASA with data about not only Mars, but the rest of the solar system's inner planets.
1997: Microsoft breaks record
- Budget deficit: $21.9 billion (0.3% of GDP)
- Total U.S. debt: $5.4 trillion (63.1% of GDP)
Valued at $261 billion in 1997, Microsoft was named the world’s most valuable company. The same year, Bill Clinton was reelected president, and the U.S. Emergency Alert System (EAS) was introduced.
1998: U.S. budget surplus
- Budget surplus: $69.3 billion (0.8% of GDP)
- Total U.S. debt: $5.5 trillion (61% of GDP)
For the first time in three decades, the United States saw a budget surplus in 1998. The reasons given included an improved economy and President Clinton’s 1993 budget. The same year, Google was incorporated, and WorldCom and MCI Communications merged in September in a $37 billion deal, making the resulting company, MCI WorldCom, the largest merger in history.
1999: President Clinton impeached
- Budget surplus: $125.6 billion (1.3% of GDP)
- Total U.S. debt: $5.7 trillion (58.7% of GDP)
Four years after his alleged affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky began, President Bill Clinton found himself in front of a grand jury defending himself. In December of 1999, the president was impeached.
2000: Y2K passes
- Budget surplus: $236.2 billion (2.3% of GDP)
- Total U.S. debt: $5.7 trillion (55.3% of GDP)
Despite widespread worry over possible computer malfunctions that could happen when systems switched over to the year 2000 (Y2K), nothing happened when the calendar page flipped from 1999 to 2000. The same year, George W. Bush defeated Al Gore, but the outcome was not announced at first, due to “hanging chads” on voting cards in Florida.
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