The following comes from Wikipedia, so you can feel free to ignore it right now, but it would be nice if you presented other sources in that case.
I have made comments in several comment threads that I don't think we should be engaged in a policy of permanent federal deficits. While I am opposed to a Balanced Budget Amendment, as I think the flexibility to have situational deficits is good, I am equally opposed to an unbounded federal debt under the theory that "The Federal Budget is not like your personal budget." It is not like my personal budget, as I cannot print my own money, but it's also not the case that being able to do so somehow repeals the basic rules of mathematics.
Continued after the Orange Squiggle of Power
Here is the summary information from Wikipedia:
The United States has had a public debt since its founding in 1791. Debts incurred during the American Revolutionary War and under the Articles of Confederation amounted to $75,463,476.52 on January 1, 1791. From 1796 to 1811 there were 14 budget surpluses and 2 deficits. There was a sharp increase in the debt as a result of the War of 1812. In the 20 years following that war, there were 18 surpluses and the US paid off 99.97% of its then debt.
Another sharp increase in the debt occurred as a result of the Civil War. The debt was just $65 million in 1860, but passed $1 billion in 1863 and reached $2.7 billion by the end of the war. During the following 47 years, there were 36 surpluses and 11 deficits. During this period 55% of the national debt was paid off.
The next period of major increase in the national debt took place during World War I, reaching $25.5 billion at its conclusion. It was followed by 11 consecutive surpluses and saw the debt reduced by 36%.
Since WWII we have never had a surplus (with the possible exception of a brief period during Clinton's presidency, depending on whose numbers you believe), and the total debt outstanding has increased at a literally exponential rate, which is not sustainable.
The only two solutions I can see to paying down most of the debt (thus freeing up interest payment funds for useful social programs) is to either repudiate the debt (highly unlikely, despite what S&P says) or inflate the currency such that the nominal debt is affordable. The ability to inflate your way out of it is what makes the federal deficit different from your personal budget, but not unlike declaring personal bankruptcy you are going to find people less willing to lend you more money after either event.