2001: Terrorist attacks and War in Afghanistan
- Budget surplus: $128.2 billion (1.2% of GDP)
- Total U.S. debt: $5.8 trillion (54.9% of GDP)
On Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists associated with the group al-Qaida hijacked four U.S. planes and used them in terrorist attacks against the United States. The same year, U.S. troops began attacks on Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
2002: SARS Outbreak
- Budget deficit: $157.8 billion (1.4% of GDP)
- Total U.S. debt: $6.2 trillion (56.9% of GDP)
The acute respiratory syndrome SARS first appeared in China in late 2002, and lasted through mid-2003, killing 774, with the majority of cases occurring in China and Hong Kong. The same year, Kmart Corporation became America’s largest retailer to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
2003: Iraq War begins and Saddam Hussein captured
- Budget deficit: $377.6 billion (3.3% of GDP)
- Total U.S. debt: $6.8 trillion (59.2% of GDP)
The Iraq War began in March, and lasted until December 2011. After nine months of hiding, former president of Iraq, Saddam Hussein was captured by U.S. troops in Operation Red Dawn in December 2003.
2004: Facebook launches
- Budget deficit: $412.7 billion (3.4% of GDP)
- Total U.S. debt: $7.4 trillion (60.4% of GDP)
Students at Harvard University are introduced to Facebook, a social networking site they can use to interact with one another. The same year, George W. Bush was reelected president, and oil companies enjoyed their highest profits in history, after an increase in fuel prices.
2005: Hurricane Katrina hits
- Budget deficit: $318.3 billion (2.4% of GDP)
- Total U.S. debt: $7.9 trillion (60.8% of GDP)
The Gulf Coast of the United States was struck by Hurricane Katrina, a Category 5 hurricane. Louisiana, which lies below sea level, was underwater. The storm killed more than 1,000 people and cost an estimated $108 billion in damage. The video-sharing website YouTube was started the same year.
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2006: U.S. population reaches 300 million
- Budget deficit: $248.2 billion (1.8% of GDP)
- Total U.S. debt: $8.5 trillion (61.6% of GDP)
The population of the United States crossed 300 million in 2006, with the Census Bureau estimating that the 400 millionth person would arrive in 2043; the current number is around 330 million. The same year, Google purchased YouTube for $1.65 billion in stock, and Pluto was downgraded to a dwarf planet.
2007: Housing bubble crisis
- Budget deficit: $160.7 billion (1.1% of GDP)
- Total U.S. debt: $9 trillion (62.3% of GDP)
When ultra-low interest rates started rising, home prices across the United States dropped rapidly by 2% to 15%, causing mass home and lender foreclosures. The same year, one of the largest fires in U.S. history destroyed 2,000 structures and nearly a million acres in California, with a cost totalling almost $3 billion.
2008: The Great Recession
- Budget deficit: $458.6 billion (3.1% of GDP)
- Total U.S. debt: $10 trillion (68.1% of GDP)
Lasting from December 2007 through June 2009, the Great Recession stemmed from the collapse of the housing bubble and the resulting financial crisis. President Bush signed a $700 billion bailout package called the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. In November, the United States elected the first African American president, Barack Obama.
2009: Recovery Act signed
- Budget deficit: $1.4 trillion (9.8% of GDP)
- Total U.S. debt: $11.9 trillion (82.4% of GDP)
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) was signed by President Obama in February, in an attempt to stimulate the economy after the Great Recession. ARRA included $787 billion in spending for tax cuts and credits, health care and more. The same year, Captain Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger successfully crash-landed U.S. Airways flight 1549 into the Hudson River.
2010: Deepwater Horizon oil spill
- Budget deficit: $1.3 trillion (8.6% of GDP)
- Total U.S. debt: $13.6 trillion (90.5% of GDP)
In a disaster still impacting the Gulf Coast today, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded off the coast of Louisiana in April 2010. The rig, which eventually sank, deposited more than 60,000 of oil daily into the Gulf at its peak, polluting more than 1,000 miles of shoreline.
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