Q&A on the News

Q: When was the last time and under what president did the government operate “in the black”?

-- Bob Collins, East Point

A: The only president to balance the federal budget was Andrew Jackson, according to John Steele Gordon, author of "Hamilton's Blessing: The Extraordinary Life and Times of Our National Debt." In a 2009 piece in The Wall Street Journal, Gordon wrote: "When Jackson entered the White House [in 1829], the national debt, which had reached $125 million at the end of the War of 1812, had already been reduced to $48 million. To get it to zero he was perfectly willing to forgo what were then called 'internal improvements' and are now known as infrastructure projects." Gordon noted that Jackson, in his 1834 State of the Union address, said the country would be debt free as of Jan. 1, 1835. At that time, there was a U.S. Treasury balance of $440,000. Government revenues that year would be twice expenses, Gordon wrote.

Q: Who owns the property in New York City where a mosque is being planned?

-- Anna E. Clay, Marietta

A: Sharif El-Gamal, chairman and CEO of Soho Properties, bought the 45-47 Park Place property in 2009, according to the New York Post. He is the main real estate developer behind the project. But the paper reported that the 49-51 Park Place building is still owned by Con Edison (Soho Properties has a long-term lease on the space), although it has been previously reported that Soho owns the entire parcel. The planned 13-story Islamic cultural center, health club and mosque located 300 yards from the World Trade Center memorial has an estimated cost of $100 million, The Associated Press reported.

Lori Johnston wrote this column. Do you have a question about the news? We’ll try to get the answer. Call 404-222-2002 or e-mail q&a@ajc.com (include name, phone and city).