Here is a quick look at total debt as accumulated by each US President.

Its kinda funny — how come so few people (especially those on the right) were all that upset about the massive surge in debt under Bush? Is it that they only recently kinda figured out the significance of debt — or are they are merely hypocrites when it comes to this sort of thing?

Whatever your political or economic views are, it is not up to me to tell you what to believe. However, you need to be intellectually consistent and not merely grab whatever ideological bullet point that suits your purposes at the moment. If you do so, you best be prepared to be charged with being intellectually dishonest, and to be categorized as called a political hack. Or worse.

When Romney wins in 2012, I expect most of the deficit hysteria to disappear.

This chart below is for the Austerians of today:


click for larger graphic

Source: Spiegel

Category: Credit, Politics, Taxes and Policy

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

119 Responses to “US Debt Accumulation by President”

  1. Yonathan says:

    This is a horrible chart to make an argument with. It doesn’t seem to distinguish between the debt ceiling and actual debt, nor does it distinguish between fiscal years or actual years.

    Change the labels from presidents to which party controlled congress and it will look quite different. Plenty of people complaining about the debt while Bush was in office. Remember the Tea Party shenanigans started with TARP.

  2. csainvestor says:

    too much partisanship in here. we need more logic, not hatred and biased taking points.

    the facts are what matter, just the facts.
    the deficit and the debt were going to explode during the recession.
    The recession led to an increase of unprofitable and bankrupt corporations + Job loss = decreased tax receipts.
    couple the above with an increase of unemployment benefits + assistance programs to help larger numbers of out of work citizens= a guaranteed explosion in the debt and the deficit.
    bake in lower consumer spending in 2009 and 2010 to the overall equation = less demand = fewer hires = even less tax revenues.

    Blame Obama if you want- but you are being intellectually dishonest if you do. the debt and the deficit was going to increase no matter who was in charge.
    The bottom line:
    the bipartisan recession owns a very large part of this debt.

  3. victor says:

    How about superimposing the D/R control of the Congress on the pie chart?

  4. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    Irwin Fletcher Says:

    “The neocons actually believe it is our job to fight everyone’s wars for them and then build democracies for them.”

    The neocon ruse is to start wars under the auspices of building democracies, but when the popular vote of these “liberated” countries is counter to our “interests” (our interests being diverting their natural resources to benefit our bottom line/ruling class), we don’t care for democracy so much. If we were to export our Constitution and its Republican/democratically elected representative government system, we would be more successful at spawning stable governments, but then, that’s not really what we’re after.

    The overthrow of the democratically-elected Iranian government and installation of the Shah in the ’50s — for the purposes of getting at their huge oil reserves — is a perfect example.

  5. Joe Friday says:


    Your point is taken, but I think that’s the underlying falsehood of this whole dilemma. As I pointed out in my comment, because of our unique position and status of our currency, all of this could be made to go away with the stroke of a pen.

    I suppose anything COULD be done, but I was responding to what you claimed was the INTENT behind running-up massive federal deficits & debt.

  6. Joe Friday says:


    Hrrrm, you should actually do the math… Bush accounts for about 31.8% of the national debt while the Obama administration accounts for 29.9%. Look at those numbers and realize that Obama has been in office for less than 3 years while Bush held the presidency for 8. That is why people are outraged about the deficit/debt problem.

    You’re conflating the causation of the massive federal deficits & debt with the calendar. The vast overwhelming majority of the federal deficits & debt during the current administration are as a direct result of the same cause as the massive federal deficits & debt during the prior administration.

  7. Joe Friday says:


    Clinton/Gingrich look good, but its because the economy was doing so well.

    What the hell did Gingrich and the House Republicans possibly have to do with it ?

    You can tax the rich at 100% and it still won’t make a dent…

    That’s silly.

  8. Greg0658 says:

    nobody does the white papers for me (& its not my job) but the Clinton good years = buildup factories overseas
    with visaversa now > pay for unemployment

    ring around back:

  9. Mick Lovin says:


    Could you do or get a similar chart, assigning debt to the real douchebags responsible, showing growth of debt by party controlling congress?

    Hopefully this doesn’t put me in the clueless fucktard club you have started.

    Long live the lobster and bacon eating modern Jews!

  10. jamesjohnson says:

    I assume you’re not using the period the president was in office but rather something based on budgets passed while they were President. If you actually use what people would assume, based on data from, you get the following: Bush: 33% Obama: 28%

    So almost equal, and remember, Obama has only been in office for not even 3 years now and Bush was in office for 8! Here are the numbers: 1/2001 5.7T 1/2009 10.6T 9/2011 14.8T (/ (- 10.6 5.7) 14.8) = 0.33 (/ (- 14.8 10.6) 14.8) = 0.28


    BR: Nice duplicitous try, but that’s a giant fail: The way the data was assembled was by Presidential budgets. Note that the government passes a budget for each year.

    While George W. Bush and Barack Obama were each sworn in on January 20th, its the prior congress/president’s budget for the rest of the year. The actual budgets of the Presidents — thats what this is about, right? — are as follows:

    1/1/2002: 5.9T
    12/31/2009: 12.3T

    1/1/2010: 12.3T
    12/31/2011: 14.9T

    of the 14.9T in debt, the Bush budgets generated 6.4T in deficts vs versus the 2.6T of Obama deficits.
    These are Presidential Budget deficits, not time in office, which is simply not a relevant measure

    That’s 43% vs 17.4% by your methodology.

    Obama’s deficit will go up over the next few years, offset by the fact he inherited an economy in collapse. Bush’s total percentage of deficit creation will go down, offset by the fact he inherited a surplus and a dotcom collapse.


  11. DrSandman says:

    @Petey Wheatstraw Says:

    “Bush was not a liberal, nor is Obama. They are both Corporatists, and Corporatism is the foundation of the Republican Party over the past 30 years (in fact, the entire political spectrum was shifted to the right because of the Republican propaganda machine demonizing the left and liberals).”

    It’s important to counter misinformation, especially when it is so tightly believed:

    Corporatism is evil, amoral, and vile. It is also indisputably a form of leftist governance. At the far far left is total state control. These are the socialists, communsists, etc. Still to the left-of-center are the corporatists, fascists, public-private-partnerships, and other progressive utopias. This is the location of (most) of the modern (D) and (R) parties. (Yes… LEFT of center.) Central in the political spectrum is the managed free market that we Tea Party people pine for. Many of us (not me) belong to the (R) party because they are the closest we can get in a 2-party system. Further to the right are the pure liberarians like Ron Paul, and on the right-most side are the anarchists.

    Alleging bought-and-paid-for politics by the party of President Goldman Sachs/BP is rich. Keep tossing those softballs; it’s hilarious!

    Here is an EPA overreach (necessarily make your electricity prices skyrocket) — blocking green energy, no less. The irony is thick.

    Also, have you tried to go out and buy a 100W incandescent lightbulb lately? Or a toilet that flushed properly? How about a diesel car that doesn’t use a UREA additive like the rest of the world?

  12. Defining Quality says:

    Cut taxes and spend spend spend – of the 1% by the 1% for the 1% !
    What don’t you get? Republican or Democrat – stealing from the 99%. Devide and conquer!!!!!!!!!
    Defending either party is proof of ones ignorance!

  13. I just looked something up — the federal Government fiscal year runs from October 1 (of the previous calendar year) to September 30. I recalculated as follows:

    10/1/2001: 5.8T
    9/30/2009: 11.9T
    Bush debt: 6.1T

    10/1/2009: 11.9T
    9/30/2011: 14.8T
    Obama debt: 2.9T

    Of the 14.8T in debt, the Bush budgets generated 6.1T in deficts vs versus the 2.9T of Obama deficits.

    These are actual Presidential Budget deficits — not time in office, which is simply not a relevant measure.

    That’s 41.2% vs 19.6% by a methodology that reflect actual budgets to the day.

  14. thenoz says:

    Bush was a knucklehead who didn’t understand that you can’t save everyone from themselves. However, unless my copy of the Constitution is different from yours, the debt picture should be listed separately by House and Senate as they control the pursestrings. I don’t expect Der Spiegel to get it right but I did expect more from your readers. Oh well, that’s what makes a market!

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  18. GuateExpat says:

    The graphic says that Bush accounts for 42.7% of the 14.3 trillion debt which calculates to 6.1061 trillion.

    Obama accounts for 16.8% which calculates to 2.4024 trillion.

    If you average that over the term of their respective presidencies (8 years for Bush and 3 years for Obama) it works out that Bush increased the debt on average by 763.3 billion per year and Obama increased the debt by 800.8 billion per year.

    I would say that is not a significant difference and think maybe factors other than who is president might be involved. Just say’n :-)