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Debt by President

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With all the talk about returning to fiscal responsibility, its interesting looking back at the past 5 presidents and their record on debt and deficit.


From the Rachel Maddow show....(I know, she has the gay on her and must be perverted, but she is a Rhodes Scholar)




National Debt Increase by percentage over term.


Reagan - 189%

Bush II - 89%

Bush I - 55%

Carter - 42%

Clinton - 36%


How does this jive with the core Republican philosophy of fiscal responsibility? Do tax cuts really increase revenue? If it does, does Republican philosophy out spend the increase? Or are Republicans really bigger spenders than the Democrats? They certainly don't have a good track record here, why do the TeaPartiers align with them and not the Democrats?


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Well, I guess we can't tell yet what our current president will record over his term.


But, if we look at the defecit rather than debt:


US Federal Defecit as a % of GDP


1980 2788.1 2.65

1981 3126.8 2.53

1982 3253.2 3.93

1983 3534.6 5.88

1984 3930.9 4.72

1985 4217.5 5.03

1986 4460.1 4.96

1987 4736.4 3.16

1988 5100.4 3.04

1989 5482.1 2.78

1990 5800.5 3.81

1991 5992.1 4.49

1992 6342.3 4.58

1993 6667.4 3.83

1994 7085.2 2.87

1995 7414.7 2.21

1996 7838.5 1.37

1997 8332.4 0.26

1998 8793.5 -0.79

1999 9353.5 -1.34

2000 9951.5 -2.37

2001 10286.2 -1.25

2002 10642.3 1.48

2003 11142.1 3.39

2004 11867.8 3.48

2005 12638.4 2.52

2006 13398.9 1.85

2007 14077.6 1.14

2008 14441.4 3.18

2009 14258.2 9.91

2010 14623.9 10.64


Have past Republican presidents been a model of fiscal responsibility? No.


Has any president ever racked up a bigger defecit in a non-war period than our current president? Nope. And, since debt equals accumulated defecit, I'm gonna predict it's not gonna look real good when the presidential debt stats are updated in 2012 or 2016.


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My view of the Tea Party position, which I will admit I have not fully explored, is that it is not just a matter of what is being spent, but what it is being spent ON.


People are angry about either the fact or their perception that we are mortgaging our children's futures and printing money to bail out irresponsible entities, fund stimulus programs for which there is no readily visible beneift, and essentially "spreading the wealth around" through new trillion-dollar entitlement/benefit programs. In contrast, a lot of the defecit in the Reagan years, if memory serves (and I wasn't paying much attention in the 80s, being more focused on being a Cub Scout), was in rebuilding the military that had been neglected under Jimmy Carter (though surely, waste, graft, corruption, and $1,000 toilet seats existed under Reagan's watch as well).


Now, whether Reagan's fiscal policies created a marked and long-lasting increase in tax revenues from which Bill Clinton's favorable defecit/debt comparison stands is a subject of another debate.


edit: I guess I would have been a Boy Scout in the 80s....(This message has been edited by 83eagle)

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Since we have not fought a declared war since world war two, I would say that particular definition of "non-war period" doesn't hold much water. Try telling our soldiers and their loved ones that neither Iraq nor Afghanistan (not to mention Vietnam, Korea, and numerous others) are "not wars." I dare you.

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My point was obviously not to disparage the sacrifices being made in what is multi-war era.


The OP was really focused on a single issue. Rather than try to explain part of any presidential era in terms of war or military operations spending, I just tried to keep the playing field level in the spirit of the OP.


When you look at the US deficit as a % of GDP over the past century there is a spike to more than 16% during WWI and a huge spike, to over 28%, in WWII. I probably should have said that the current deficit as a % of GDP is higher than in any "non-world-war" era in the past 100 years.


Again, no one knows for sure what things will look like in 2012 or 2016, but given the goverment's propensity for baseline budgeting, it's unlikely that any "cuts" to spending will have an impact of reducing either the defecit or the debt.


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Say what you will, at least B43 called what we were doing WAR.


OBTW, the little fracas overnight between North and South Korea is a matter of no small attention to the United States. If you think Iraq and Afghanistan are black holes for $$$ (let alone the lives of our Troops), just wait until you see what real mid-intensity war looks like... :(

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Yah, someone really just needs to take da entire Kim Jong family out back...


No question, Republicans since Reagan have been the party of borrow-and-spend. The whole "fiscal responsibility" mantra that the current bunch chants is just surreal. The Republican congress of 2000-06 was the Master of Earmarks and funding special interests.


No question, da last two years have seen extraordinary government and Federal Reserve intervention in the markets. That's what happens when yeh deregulate the financial services industry and encourage 'em to gamble with other people's money. Party like it's 1929. At that point yeh either let the banks collapse and go for the 15 years of Greater Depression or yeh jump in with a massive bailout and go for 10 years of economic weakness, with a healthy risk of rebound stag-flation.


We're not through it yet, eh? Does anyone realize how underfunded most state pension funds are? It's not just SS and Medicare, virtually all public and most corporate retirement plans are Ponzi schemes, and mis-managed ones at that. Us elderly, republican voters aren't finished robbin' you young folks yet. :(




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But da congress controls the purse strings.


Most presidents aren't willing to veto budgets and go for shuttin' down the government.


Presidents can try to exercise some leadership. When they do they give the weak-kneed congresscritters someone to hide behind. Be interestin' to see if President Obama is willing to back the Debt Commission report or one of the alternatives, or whether it'll be another dilly-dally and shill performance that will lead to a 3000 page "debt reduction" bill that projects it might reduce the deficit by 2030. ;)




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A politician gets more votes if he sends his constituents "jobs" or "projects" but not quite as much if they reduce spending - ergo, we get what we ask for.


Remove tax deductions for dependents, home interest (or any other debt costs), etc. Eliminate the tax cap on social security (FICA wages) similar to medicare taxes. Eliminate special franking, secret service, retirement programs, etc. for themselves. Then reduce overall income tax rates. Does any politician have the guts to do such a thing?


All politicians want to "cut taxes" and "eliminate wasteful spending", support our military, improve schools, help the poor, tax the rich, feed the hungry and house the homeless. The devil is always in the details.

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