Myths/Obama/federal budget/70 percent increase

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Claim: The federal debt has increased by almost 70 percent under Obama.
The debt exploded as Bush left office in order to aid recovery from the Great Recession. Due to a successful recovery, it is expected to actually recede a little by 2017 and then start edging upwards again – with deficits between 2.5% and 3% of GDP, which is an entirely healthy level.


While this is true, it says as much about Republican policies and actions as it does about Obama's policies and actions.

  1. Obama took office on the heels of the worst recession since the Great Depression 80 years earlier – a recession that was set in motion largely by the actions of his predecessor and Republican deregulatory initiatives.
  2. While even a linear projection (which is unrealistically pessimistic) shows the debt approximately doubling under Obama by the time he leaves office, it also doubled under Bush – who not only didn't have to deal with a major economic crisis upon assuming office, but even had a surplus.
    • Bush swiftly reversed our good fortunes through heedless spending coupled with major tax breaks for the rich.
    • Obama has reversed our bad fortunes through deficit spending and generally sound fiscal policy.
    • Obama was also up against an obstructionist Republican majority that automatically opposed anything Democrats suggested. The debt would probably have come down a great deal further if Republicans had been less focused on making Democrats (and government in general) look bad and more focused on actual governing, i.e. doing their jobs.


If you're upset about the size of the deficit, you should be angry at Bush for (among other things) starting two wars while reducing taxes for the rich, and at the Republicans in general for pushing through deregulation of Wall Street in 1999. (No, you can't blame Bill Clinton any more than you can blame Obama.)


Clinton is the only president to reduce the deficit within the past 50 years. (He wasn't a Republican.)

Total Federal Debt on certain key dates:

Date What Unadjusted Inflation-Adjusted ($T) US GDP (unadj. $T) % of GDP
1993-09-30* Bill Clinton assumes office 4,411,488,883,139.38 7.351 7.033 63%
2001-09-30* George W. Bush assumes office 5,807,463,412,200.06 7.895 10.7 54%
2009-01-20 Barack Obama assumes office 10,626,877,048,913.08 11.92 14.57 73%
2014-12-03 date of DailySignal article 17,976,896,374,080.00 18.3 17.71 101%
2015-02-22 date of this writing 18,138,459,241,907.59 18.1 -- --

* closest date for which a figure is available


  • As of 2/22, the inflation-adjusted debt had actually gone down just a bit since the DailySignal article a few months earlier.
  • The CBO says that the 2015 deficit will be 2.7% of GDP, having peaked at 10% in 2007, but that it will go back up again unless relevant laws change.