I first saw the chart below on this subject on Facebook from Left Action. It purportedly came from the Democratic leader of the House.
I found the results so surprising that I verified the data for myself. I did not want to perpetuate a lie based on false data. I also wanted to go back further in history to see how earlier presidents fared on this measure. Of course we realize that it’s congress that actually spends the money but it very popular right now to identify debt by the president and his administration.
My source for data was the OMB (Office of Management and Budget), specifically their Historical Tables, Table 7.1 Federal Debt at the End of the Year 1940 -2016. The data for 2010 was still estimated when I did this analysis. Gross Federal Debt is the sum of Public Debt and Debt Held by Federal Government accounts (other agencies).
The results I got are shown below:
While the actual numbers differ a bit from the chart on Facebook, the overall trends are the same. Reagan still is the greatest contributor on a percentage basis of any of the presidents from 1940 to the end of 2010.
I wondered what the chart would like rationalized by the GDP (Gross Domestic Product). The results are shown below:
Our national debt was over 90% of the GDP at the end of 1940, and it fell steadily until the Reagan administration. It’s been growing ever since except for the Clinton administration when it decreased.
When these data are looked at in the same way as the increase in debt, the results are shown below:
From this perspective Clinton’s financial management appears remarkable.
Other sources of information:
National Debt by Presidential Terms, Wikipedia
Presidents and the Federal Debt, zFacts
National Debt by President, The Big Picture
Click here to print a copy of this analysis