Who’s Responsible for the National Debt?

By
Wednesday, June 02, 2010 at 4:28 pm

Annie just noted that the national debt hit a (somewhat meaningless) milestone this week, topping $13 trillion yesterday. As a quick addendum, it’s worth pointing out which presidents are most responsible for running up the national tab. We’ll go back five. (All numbers come from the Treasury Department, found here and here.)

1) Ronald Reagan (1981-1989): Inherited roughly $908 billion in debt, and took it up to $2.6 trillion. Change: +186%.

2) George H.W. Bush (1989-1993): Took Reagan’s $2.6 trillion up to $4.2 trillion. Change: +62%.

3) Bill Clinton (1993-2001): Took Bush’s $4.2 trillion up to $5.7 trillion. Change: +36%.

4) George W. Bush (2001-2009): Took Clinton’s $5.7 trillion up above $10.6 trillion. Change: +86%.

5) Barack Obama (2009-2010): So far, has taken Bush’s $10.6 trillion up to $13 trillion. Change: +23%.

This is no defense of the current levels of deficit spending, which are clearly unsustainable and need some serious trimming. But it’s a good reminder that all that talk about Republicans being more fiscally responsible than Democrats doesn’t quite hold up when confronted with the real numbers.

Note: This post has been updated so that the figures from 1993 onward reflect the debt on the day that the listed presidents were sworn in, as opposed to the month that they were elected. Because the Treasury Department doesn’t keep such daily debt figures before 1993, the numbers surrounding Reagan’s term ($908 billion and $2.6 trillion) reflect the debt several months before he was sworn in and several months before he left office, respectively.

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35 Comments

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alchemytoday
Comment posted June 2, 2010 @ 9:03 pm

The debt was actually $10.7 trillion when Bush left office (it was around $10 when Obama was elected). On top of that, $350 billion had not yet been disbursed, but was on its way with the TARP renewal being voted on at the tail end of Bush's presidency.


Mike Lillis
Comment posted June 2, 2010 @ 9:45 pm

Thanks for the good eyes. Note the update.


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alchemytoday
Comment posted June 2, 2010 @ 11:17 pm

No problem; a better (and much harder to calculate) comparison would be how responsible each Presidential administration is (ignoring the contribution of Congress) for the debt; how did changes in law enacted during each Presidency affect the debt.

This would even more starkly favor the Democratic presidents in your list. For example, the stimulus is the only major piece of legislation enacted during Obama's presidency that's raised the debt. Relatively minor legislation such as Cash for Clunkers, home purchase credits, disaster relief, etc are on top of that. Everything else is debt service, reduced trust fund surpluses (and possibly deficits this year), historically dismal revenue, and TARP disbursement.


air jordan
Comment posted June 3, 2010 @ 3:26 am

it’s a good reminder that all that talk about Republicans being more fiscally responsible than Democrats air jordan
air jordans doesn’t quite hold up when confronted with the real numbers.


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J Sumrall
Comment posted June 6, 2010 @ 1:21 am

I'd say Obama has a good chance to top them all in percentage and total dollars by the time he's done.


clarenceswinney
Comment posted June 7, 2010 @ 5:06 pm

DEBT
YOU GOOFED!
YOU USED CALENDAR YEARS NOT FISCAL YEARS.
NUMBERS NEED CORRECTION
BUSH TOOK FROM 5700 TO `11920 BILLION.

BUSH + 100%
REAGAN + 183%

THREE CONSERVATIVE PRESIDENTS FROM 1980
ADDED ON 9000 BILLION

HOW? CUT DEM TAXES FOR RICH AND REDUCE REVENUE BORROW LET KIDS PAY TOMORROW.

Reagan + Bush Tax cuts

Reagan 750B X 24 years=18,000 Billion Lost Revenue
Bush 1700B X 5 years=8500 Billion lost revenue

26,500 Billlion would cover 12,000B of Debt.

Fom 1945 to 1981 each president worked to cut WWII Debt, They Did it

Conservatives under Reagan and Bush did the DEBT DEBT DEBT

Cut government trojan horse to cut taxes for Rich.

olduglymeanhonest


clarenceswinney
Comment posted June 7, 2010 @ 5:11 pm

when Bush left office??????????????
Bush last budget went from 10-1-08 to 9-30-09

He is responsible for that period Spending Revenue

Except!! A little over 100B added on from 1-21-09–to–9–30-09 by Obama in amount spent on Stimulus and Auto Bailout.

olduglymeanhonest


clarenceswinney
Comment posted June 7, 2010 @ 5:31 pm

REVENUE LOSS big cause for DEBT
Not only Spending.

Reagan + Bush Tax Cuts lost Treaury 26,500 Billion in Revenue

Look at Revenue Stream from 1980 to 2010.

Cut Spend Cut Spend Ok no one disagrees
But Do not cut Revenue and Borrow to let kids pay tomorrow

Obama/America faces horrid situation.

We MUST go back to making RICH pay FAIR share.

1980=10 Billionaires
1989=51 Billionaires
2008=403 Billionaires.
1980-1% own 20% Total Financial Wealth
1989=own 36% (80% Increase RR thanks)
2008=43% back to 1929 level

2008=20% owned 93% (1929 Deja Vu)
80% = 7%=120,000,000 workers=shafted

USA to WSA (Wall Street of America)
own most major corporations
own defense industry
own banks
own Our Government

When 120,000,000 workers own 8% we are in deep trouble as a nation..

Today, we are a leader in INEQUALITY amongst all industrialized nations,

Inequality creates passion amongst the masses and eventually it erupts

Rich got Ultra Rich from 1980..

1946 to 1980 we had equality in distribution of Income and Wealth
Econimists called it a Picket Fence Distribution. Each perentile increased almost evenly
It was called the Great Middle Class Years.
In 1950-1960=1970s you could buy a nice new middle class home
for 2.5 years of your Gross Income. It went to 5.4 under Bush.

From 1980 it was named a Step Ladder distribution.
Each step gained a;little except top step (10%) went into outer space with the wealth and income increases..

In 2008, Top 10% owned 70% of Total Financial Wealth

Go ahead someone please say they pay all the taxes. Please say it.

CTJ.ORG–Study 2008 Income/Tax Revenues
Top Quintile (20%) paid 30% of Total Income in Federal-State-Local taxes.

Middle Quintile (20%) Paid “almost” same amount.

olduglymeanhonest


clarenceswinney
Comment posted June 7, 2010 @ 5:44 pm

Reagan began big spending-borrowing

He submitted 8 budgets which totaled over 7000 Billion.
From 1930 to 1980 we spent 6066 Billion.

He spent more in 8 than prior 50 years.Bad Boy.

Ouch! Conservatives likeHeritage scream yeh but but Congress Democratic House was big part.
Here are typical ala Heritage spins

Sho nuff!!! Congress returned his 8 for his signature and they contained fewer dollars than he had submitted.Si Gringo! Viola! Touche'.

OH! but Inflation adjusted dollars count!!!!!!!!!!
Si Hombre!! From 1948 to 1988 in 1988 dollars Reagan spent 2.7 dollars in 8 for all of prior 32 years. Comprehendezvous Bandido?

Spin Reagan record. No way except to deceive.

olduglymean honest


James
Comment posted June 8, 2010 @ 7:24 pm

And the evidence for your claim is?


fixyourself
Comment posted June 10, 2010 @ 10:46 am

Many of your notes are too criptic to cross check, but your politics are clear.

1) Stop trying to support your feelings with “facts”. You'll never be “fair” to the facts.

2) If Debt is bad then stop blaming Republicans, and start blaming fiscally irresponsible politicians. If it is not bad, then stop arguing.

3) Stop using the word “fair”, its meaning has been befouled by people spewing “facts” to support their feelings.

example: “In 2008, Top 10% owned 70% of Total Financial Wealth”

uhhhhh duuhhhhh – that's what makes them the rich! if 50% owned 50% of Total Financial Wealth we could be the poor-assed communists you want us to be


clarenceswinney
Comment posted June 10, 2010 @ 1:16 pm

FACTS HURT. I STAND BY MY FACTS NOT YOUR OPINIONS.
I AM INDEPENDENT VOTER. VOTED FOR NIXON-CARTER-REAGAN TWICE-BUSH THEN
CLINTON
I VOTE FOR LOCAL REPUBLCANSs.
I TRY TO EVALUATE BY NUMBERS AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE, I ADMIT NUMBERS ARE NEVER
COVERAGE OF TOTAL CAUSE-EFFECT.
It is fact Reagan + Bush + Conservatives desired to DEREGULATE–TO CUT SIZE
OF GOVERNMENT
They did mot walk their walk.
Reagan submitted 8 budgets which totaled over 7000B or more than we spent in
prior 50 years(6066)

Easily found in any Global orWorld Almananc. But one.

Democrats gave us social programs to help poor–kids-elderly. They cost,
Reagan + Bush failed big time to get he Revnue to cover the costs

I appreciate comments cswinney2@triad.rr.com


American
Comment posted July 22, 2010 @ 1:46 am

Thanks for the info. Would it make more sense to bold total dollars debt increased. Percentage seems to favor later Presidents. Also info on who controlled Congress and GDP growth would be nice numbers to see.


clarenceswinney
Comment posted July 22, 2010 @ 9:01 pm

DEBT (rounded)
reagan added– 1700B
bush I –1300
clinton–1500
bush ii-6000

1980=less than 1000B

3 conservatives who preahed “cut” government
added 9000B to debt

took Carter 600B budget to 3600B
Clinton left Bush 1800 taken to 3600

the 3 got 99,000 net new jobs per month
carter + clinton got 222.000

Reagan blarney blannering about cut government.
Total Bull
He increased spending by 80% and Debt by 183%
His spinners say
Oh! It was Democratic Congress
He had R Senate for 6 of 8 years
He sent 8 budgts which totaled over 7000B. Here is kicker. Over 7000B
How much did we spend 1930 to 1981–6066B
More in 8 than prior 50 years. Wow! Cut that government blarney baloney

Hi spinners also use Yes! But “real” Inflation adjusted dollars
Sho nuff!
1948 to 1989 in 1988 Dollars(adjused for Inflation)
Reagan 8 budgets spent 2.7 dollars for each in other 32 years..

What else can they try?OH! He had Alzi! Nancy ran the government!
Clinton fault.He left Bush a big huge awful Suplus
Terrible. Cut those Taxes for top 1%
Borrow from Chinese.
6000B created many millionairs
Yes! We borrowed so Top 1% could increase it's ownership of Total Financial
Wealth from 20% to 43%
120,00,000 workers iincreased “down” to 7%
Typical right wingnut spin down is up

1945 -1980 Greatest Middle Class Years in history
Each Percentile gained almost evenly in Income-Wealth.
Reagan started redistribution up to to 1%—-60% Tax Cut for 1%.–
Reagan + Bush gave Rich and Corporations a big big slice of the pie
In 1945 Corporate profits financed 35% of our Budget. 7% in 2008. Praise WSA
$$$$$$$$$ JEHOVAH $$$$$$$$$$$$
Tax Fairness—-Wow—-In 2008 the– top 20% —of Total Income Reported
paid 30% of Total Income in Federal-State-Local Taxes
The —-Middle 20%— paid 28% — almost same.
Bottom 20% paid more of their income in State-Local Taxes than top 20%
If that is Fair Taxation I spit
Top pay more Federal sincc they get most of the Income..
Middle Class pay full(100%) payroll rate on total income.. Top pay
1/10th–1/100th and less
FAIR

Flat Tax sho nuff
Rich would scream if use one rate for all
Total Income 12.000B
Budget 3800B
It takes 32% if use one rate to cover budget (3800 : 12,000)
Buffett 17% goes up and up
400 Top Earners paid 16% in 2008 Try getting 32% from those WSA
Zillionaires
Corporations paid 17% on profits.Top rate is 35% Try getting 32% of the
profits and listen to screams
Exxon 2009 Return. Billions in profit. Filed to pay zero. 0. 0. 0
Ok Exxon you must pay 32% of those billions. Ho Hum
WSA owns Congress. No doubt. Undeniable.
WSA has placed it's people in key position in government check it out.
Pentagon loaded.Treasury Federal Reserve
olduglymanhonest

Since 1980
20 years 3 conservative Presidents
18 years had conservative Senate
12 years had conservative House
6 years had Total conservative control

Reagan had —R– Senate for 6 years–D House all 8
Bush I had—- D –H & S for 4 years
Clinton had — D– H&S for 2—- R– H&S for 6
Bush had– —R– H&S for 6–
Obama ——–D — H&S–18 months
cswinney2@triad.rr.com
comments appreciated with facts numbers not opinions.


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Comment posted July 28, 2010 @ 8:28 am

THREE CONSERVATIVE PRESIDENTS FROM 1980
ADDED ON 9000 BILLION


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[...] Who’s Responsible for the National Debt? The Washington Independent 1) Ronald Reagan (1981-1989): Inherited roughly $908 billion in debt, and took it up to $2.6 trillion. Change: +186%. 2) George H.W. Bush (1989-1993): Took Reagan’s $2.6 trillion up to $4.2 trillion. Change: +62%. 3) Bill Clinton (1993-2001): Took Bush’s $4.2 trillion up to $5.7 trillion. Change: +36%. 4) George W. Bush (2001-2009): Took Clinton’s $5.7 trillion up above $10.6 trillion. Change: +86%. 5) Barack Obama (2009-2010): So far, has taken Bush’s $10.6 trillion up to $13 trillion. Change: +23%. This is no defense of the current levels of deficit spending, which are clearly unsustainable and need some serious trimming. But it’s a good reminder that all that talk about Republicans being more fiscally responsible than Democrats doesn’t quite hold up when confronted with the real numbers. [...]


nonon
Comment posted December 1, 2010 @ 3:53 am

Name on 30 Nov 2010 said:

When bush left the debt was about 10t, today its just under 14t. under his administration the debt increased by 500b to 1t per year. from 9-30-09 to 12-1-10 just under 14t that 4t in 27 months by the current administration

12/01/2010 13,798,000,000,000.00 changing every second
09/30/2010 13,561,623,030,891.79
09/30/2009 11,909,829,003,511.75
09/30/2008 10,024,724,896,912.49
09/30/2007 9,007,653,372,262.48
09/30/2006 8,506,973,899,215.23
09/30/2005 7,932,709,661,723.50
09/30/2004 7,379,052,696,330.32
09/30/2003 6,783,231,062,743.62
09/30/2002 6,228,235,965,597.16
09/30/2001 5,807,463,412,200.06
09/30/2000 5,674,178,209,886.86


Anonymous
Comment posted December 8, 2010 @ 7:39 am

On top of that, $350 billion had not yet been disbursed, but was on its way with the TARP renewal being voted on at the tail end of Bush’s presidency.


Anonymous
Comment posted December 8, 2010 @ 4:08 pm

GOOGLE: KATHLEEN PENDER + BAILOUT
TELL THIS TO THE PEOPLE

Joshua Holland -Dec 8, 2010-“How our Trillion -Dollar Empire is the cause of
our “Deficit Problem”

alternet.org/module/149019

SUPERB GREAT AWESOME

Our problem! Who will tell the people? Congress ? Ho Ho. Buddy Buddy system.
Bases place in districts protected by congress. Guam? The people have voted
many times Go Home Yankees. Leaders say no $$$$$$$$$$$ Stay here.

This info needs to be in a docu and shown on TV over and over. Most get info
off TV which serves its masters WSA $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$,..

WSA Globalization + this fiasco will sink us farther down the slide to
mediocracy

JOBS GO to Cheapest Labor. Low costs and sell at highest price to gullible
Americans.

Wal-Mart main catalyst. Lowest prices. Biggest profits. Check out hosiery in
Wal-Mart then Belks or Federated. Price is comparable to USA.The difference
is PROFIT. WSA does not give us the benefits of lower labor costs.

Profit margin greater.. Make for $1.00 in China sell for $3 in America. 200%
profit.

In America. make for $2.50 sell for $3. 20% profit

WSA has been , since 2000 Billl De-regulatingDerivativess, the Casino
Derivative

How did one person have an “income” in one year of 4000 Million-3000 Million
etc?.

Surely, not from dealing in business stocks. Dow is below ten years ago

Gambling on events . No Assets. No value added. Las Vegas gambling.

Bush Neo-Cons “Free the market let em roll” is exactly what Calvin Coolidge
did in 1920′s.

WSA went wild gambling. Borrowed money. Nothing down. Plenty cheap money.

Fed (did hard Republican)Greenspan increased Total Money Supply in first
five of Bush by twice as much as in prior ten years….He took Clinton 6.5%
Interest to 1% for Bush Gamblers and Housing Thieves

Great Depression to Great Recession perhaps another Great Depression.

No Safety Net Today it would be Great Depression deja vu Horrible. Mobs in
streets. Burning rich homes. Think on that one. No Safety Net. Thank you
FDR—LBJ-Democrats Middle Class Of America Leaders.

Think Coolidge and Bushaloon Think Great Depression Great Recession

olduglymeanhonest mad mad mad


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awake108
Comment posted June 1, 2011 @ 8:20 pm

Alot because of the Two wars and tax cut ans Medicare part D thatBush didn’t pay for.


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Comment posted July 1, 2011 @ 10:07 pm

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Danw5
Comment posted July 17, 2011 @ 11:05 pm

09/30/2009 11,909,829,003,511.75 was the Bush budget at the end of the Fiscal yr that he passed in 2008.. You actually included one that belonged to Bush! All the tax-cuts for the rich belong to him even today! That is $400 B a year.


Scott Caplan
Comment posted July 19, 2011 @ 7:57 pm

Reality.


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