I began today’s blog thinking I was going to write about something else…but I was inspired by another picture that people are using to try and blame Obama for all of the financial concerns in the world. Okay, that might be a little dramatic, but it is kind of silly. The picture attempts to be sarcastic about Obama building the national debt by $5.2 trillion. I decided that I’m sick of hearing about how terrible Obama has been because of the national debt so I’ve decided to look deeper into this area of concern.
Let’s start with a look at what the national debt actually is. There are a few different categories of the national debt. I will be using the total public debt numbers in this blog. Now I’m going to take the realistic approach that the conservative websites won’t. The fiscal year for the government begins on October 1st. This means that the budget for the majority of the first year of a President’s term has already been set by the previous President. Knowing this, I’m going to change the dates of the debt to September 30th of the year each President left office. This will allow us to properly attribute the debt to the correct President. With that being said, let’s take a look…
Here is a chart showing the public debt that I attributed to each President since Reagan took office. Due to a lack of specific data, the first year of Reagan’s presidency was omitted and he was assigned the debt from the first year of Bush’s presidency. This would lead to a small skew in the numbers for Reagan, but you will see that it didn’t make any kind of real impact on the results.
After analyzing this table, you can easily see that the biggest gains are during the Reagan and Bush years. In fact, the smallest percent of change for an entire administration falls in Clinton’s term (31.65% increase) with Obama right behind him (33.37% increase). In reality, Obama has only added about $3.974 trillion to the debt. Considering the fact that he inherited what some believe will be considered the worst recession since the Great Depression. Remember that he also inherited a federal workforce that included our armed forces in the middle of a war. He could make a dramatic change in the budget without massive cuts and layoffs, which would have hurt the economy even more. Also, notice that the amount of increase in the debt has decreased by 9.75 percent since he took office. When Bush left office, his budget was an 18.8% increase of the public debt. In 2011, that number was only 9.05 percent. So Obama is actually increasing debt at a much slower pace than his predecessors.
So what’s the endgame here? For all of the screaming and yelling I’ve heard over the last few years about Obama spending too much money, his percentage of increase has actually been lower than his Republican predecessors. Yes, the actual numbers are high, but we’re talking about the national budget, not Mr. and Mrs. Smith’s personal finances.
(correction to chart – amounts in trillions, not billions)