Recently, Nancy Pelosi's office has released a chart comparing President Obama's debt increases to past Presidents, attempting to say that Obama has increased the debt significantly less than George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan. (See chart below.)
Unfortunately, Congresswoman Pelosi's office has used some severely flawed logic and showed you their argument in a very carefully constructed way to falsify the truth - Barack Obama has added more dollars of debt to our nation than our nation's first 41 Presidents COMBINED.
The Democrats fuzzy accounting starts with one of their favorite tricks: talking about percentages instead of actual dollars (adjusted for inflation), specifically, percentage increase of the national debt. To put it simply, using this logic, if the national debt was $1, and a President borrowed an additional $5, that President's critics could lambast him for "increasing the National Debt by 500%" and then compare it to Barrack Obama, who, according to Pelosi, only raised the debt 16% and say Obama has been far more responsible. Actually, Obama has raised the debt by 34% according to PolitiFact. Either way, 16% or 34% sounds like a whole lot less than 500%, right? Except our fictional President raised the debt by only $5 (that's one five dollar bill), while Obama has increased the debt by $4.6 TRILLION.
So how is Obama's number so much lower? Simple: His debt increase was set as a percentage of $10 Trillion, not a percentage of $1 (in the case of our fictional President), or as a percentage of $5.7 Trillion (in the case of George W. Bush) or as a percentage of $4.1 Trillion (in the case of Clinton) or as a percentage of $2.9 Trillion (in the case of George H.W. Bush) or as a percentage of $1.01 Trillion (in the case of Reagan).
So let's talk Apples to Apples, shall we? All data is based on adjusting the final debt total from a President based on it's value in the last year of his Presidency to 2010 levels (that is the lastest inflation calculator available). To see National Debt by Presidential term, click here.
- Ronald Reagan raised the debt by $1.656 Trillion (based on year 1988 dollars) in eight years. Adjusted for inflation, that is $888 Billion.
- George H.W. Bush raised the debt $1.583 Trillion (based on year 1992 dollars) in four years. Adjusted for inflation, that is $2.428 Trillion.
- Bill Clinton raised the debt $1.412 Trillion (based on year 2000 dollars). Adjusted for inflation that is $1.412 Trillion.
- George W. Bush raised the debt $4.746 Trillion (based on year 2008 dollars). Adjusted for inflation that is $4.812 Trillion.
- Barack Obama has raised the debt $4.42 Trillion (based on current dollar value).
So, adjusted for inflation, in eight years Reagan increased the debt 22% of what Obama has raised the debt in three years; in four years George H.W. Bush increased the debt 54% of what Obama has raised the debt in three years; in eight years, and Bill Clinton raised the debt 25% of what Obama has raised the debt in three years; and in eight years.
In eight years, George W. Bush has raised the debt 107% as much as as Obama has in three years. In other words, by the end of Obama's four year as President, he will have exceeded the new debt that George W. Bush did in eight years.
So, the harsh reality is that the only reason Obama's percentage rate is lower is because he was raising the debt as a percentage of a larger amount. The fact remains, President Obama has raised the debt in real dollars by more than any President in recent memory. And that, my friends, is Obama's real debt, apples to apples.