Extrapolated September 2010 Debt, by President

by Mike Kimel

Extrapolated September 2010 Debt, by President

Cross-posted at the Presimetrics blog.

This one is quick and dirty because I’m very low on time…. Anyhow, these days there’s a lot of talk about the debt, and some talk about how irresponsible Obama is, or maybe its GW. Who knows, there’s a lotta talk and very little hard facts, much less context. So, from working on Presimetrics, I had some debt data lying around and started with that.

The table below shows the total national debt and ending national debt for each President for December of the year before he took office and the growth rate over that time period. For grins I threw in the President’s extrapolated September 2010 debt. That was computed by taking the debt in December (in September 2010 dollars) of each President’s last year in office, and, assuming the rate at which debt had increased during his term would continue all the way to September 2010.

All data is in September 2010 dollars.

To interpret:

In December 1980, a month before Reagan took office, the debt was 2.354 trillion (Sept 2010 dollars). A month before he left office, in December 1988, that debt had increased to 4.866 trillion, which is an annualized growth rate of 9.50% a year. Starting with 4.866 trillion in December of 1988, and increasing at a rate of 9.50% a year would give you 35 trillion and change by September of 2010.

A few things to note… the two Presidents who added to the debt at the quickest rate were GW in first place and Reagan in second. They were followed by Ford, and then Obama, with GHW Bush not far behind. Now, I’ve been pretty critical of Obama for continuing GW’s policies (see Presimetrics, the book I wrote with Michael Kanell, and this) but all in all, as lousy as he’s been, he’s far, far from the worst perpetrator when it comes to fiscal irresponsibility. (And please, spare me the whole “the banks needed saving” when so did many businesses and households… which weren’t saved. I’d be less inclined to carp if the money was spent on keeping Main Street afloat rather than seeing so much flow to Wall Street.) I wonder how the Tea Partiers would react to that information, and whether they are are angrier at GW and Reagan than they are at Obama. Somehow I doubt it.

Note – the data, data sources, and analysis used in this post are available here.