The Bush Deficits vs the Obama Deficits

 

As I like to remind readers, I am a fiscal conservative and a social moderate.  I started writing this blog in November 2012, after running unsuccessfully in a Republican congressional primary in May of that year.  I am appalled by our reckless fiscal policies in recent years.  We simply have to get federal spending in much better alignment with tax revenue and do this in a relatively short period of time.
Both political parties are responsible for our current predicament.  Nevertheless, we need to have the best factual information available to help us get back on track.  Today I compare the Bush deficits with the Obama deficits.  The most objective way to do this, in my opinion, is to divide the transition budget years, 2001 and 2009, between the incoming and outgoing presidents.  In other words, October, November and December of the year 2000 are assigned to President Clinton and the last nine months of the 2001 budget year, i.e. January 2001 – September 2001, are assigned to President Bush.  Likewise for the 2009 budget year, when Bush was leaving office and President Obama was coming in.
CaptureA good source for such detailed budget information is the website of David Manuel, “an online repository of financial and political information that is often searched for but is generally hard to find.”
Here is what I’ve come up with:

President Bush

  • 2001 budget year (last 9 months)                $129.6 (billion) surplus
  • 2002 budget year                                         $157.8 (billion) deficit
  • 2003 budget year                                         $377.6 (billion) deficit
  • 2004 budget year                                         $413   (billion) deficit
  • 2005 budget year                                         $318   (billion) deficit
  • 2006 budget year                                         $248   (billion) deficit
  • 2007 budget year                                         $161   (billion) deficit
  • 2008 budget year                                         $459   (billion) deficit
  • 2009 budget year (first 3 months)                $332.5 (billion) deficit
  •                                                                   $2,337.3 (billion) deficit TOTAL

President Obama

  • 2009 budget year (last 9 months)               $1080.5 (billion) deficit
  • 2010 budget year                                        $1294  (billion) deficit
  • 2011 budget year                                        $1299  (billion) deficit
  • 2012 budget year                                        $1100  (billion) deficit
  • 2013 budget year                                         $ 683  (billion) deficit
  • 2014 budget year                                         $ 483   (billion) deficit
  • 2015 budget year (CBO estimate)               $ 468   (billion) deficit
  • 2016 budget year (CBO estimate)               $ 467   (billion) deficit
  • 2017 budget year (first 3 months, CBO)      $ 163     (billion) deficit
  •                                                                   $7,037.5   (billion) deficit TOTAL  

These totals represent, of course, the amounts that were added (Bush) or will be added (Obama) to the national debt during their terms of office.  George Bush made little, if any, effort to control deficit spending.  But the Obama debt is three times as bad as the Bush debt.  Getting the debt under control is by far our biggest and most urgent national problem.  By failing to take our debt seriously, both Bush and Obama have been huge failures as president!

14 thoughts on “The Bush Deficits vs the Obama Deficits

  1. “George Bush made little, if any, effort to control deficit spending. But the Obama debt is three times as bad as the Bush debt.”

    As always, you conflate deficits with spending.

    Since you never seem to understand the difference, I’ll explain one more time:

    Deficits can occur because spending is up, or (and this is the important part) because revenues are down.

    Of those two critical variables, which was the most important one in causing the Obama deficits? The Bush deficits? The Clinton surplus? The Reagan deficits?

  2. Obviously, deficits can be shrunk by either cutting spending or raising tax revenue. Working this out is the job of Congress and the President. If they can’t figure out how to do this, then they’re shirking their duty.
    The Bush tax rate cuts were irresponsible because, unlike for Reagan, they were not accompanied by closing loopholes and deductions. Nor did Bush make any effort to control spending.
    I understand that revenue was down when Obama took office. But the recession ended almost six years ago. And spending is still way up. He, too, has expressed no interest in controlling spending. This is hard to do and uses up political capital. But it is the sign of leadership to figure out how to attack our most pressing problems which Obama has blatantly failed to do.

  3. Ummm I think it would be more relevant to look at the policy decisions and not just the raw numbers while people were in office.

    Deficits were highest from 2009 to the present but it was mostly because tax revenues went down during the Recession. The deficits of the early 2000s, on the other hand, were completely the government’s fault, because that government (rather unwisely) cut taxes and increased spending. So even though the deficits have been higher from 2009 to the President, I would consider the early 2000s government to be more fiscally irresponsible, although they haven’t been great in recent years either.

    Also, it’s actually Congress who passes the budget.

  4. Spending jumped from $2.98 trillion in 2008 to $3.52 trillion in 2009 and has continued to climb since then. The recession ended in June 2009 and GDP has now been growing again ever since. It is long past time to bring spending in line with tax revenues.

  5. Spending took a big jump, of $500 billion, from 2008 to 2009, and has been essentially flat since then. I stand corrected. This changes nothing about my basic premise, that deficits are too large and need to be shrunk one way or another.

    • OK– thanks for that concession.

      But I still don’t see what your complaint is with Obama. If you look at the charts, the deficit is now at about average of what we’ve had over the last 30 years, and the reason is because revenues are soaring and we’ve had five years of no growth in spending (for the first time in *60 years*!).

      In other words, what you say you want to happen is actually happening. Spending is well under control and revenues are going up exponentially, thus reducing the deficit very quickly.

      In fact, people like Paul Krugman say this quickly shrinking deficit is what’s hindering growth right now. I know you don’t agree with that, but I don’t see how you can make these claims that you’ve made in the current post and comments:

      – I am appalled by our reckless fiscal policies in recent years. We simply have to get federal spending in much better alignment with tax revenue and do this in a relatively short period of time.

      That’s exactly what’s happening!

      – George Bush made little, if any, effort to control deficit spending. But the Obama debt is three times as bad as the Bush debt. Getting the debt under control is by far our biggest and most urgent national problem. By failing to take our debt seriously, both Bush and Obama have been huge failures as president!

      Your comments are correct for Bush, but completely factually untrue for Obama!

      – Obviously, deficits can be shrunk by either cutting spending or raising tax revenue. Working this out is the job of Congress and the President. If they can’t figure out how to do this, then they’re shirking their duty.

      They are not shirking their duties– spending is the most controlled in three generations and revenues are up big time. And the deficit is shrinking rapidly!

      – But [shrinking the deficit by controlling spending or raising revenue] is the sign of leadership to figure out how to attack our most pressing problems which Obama has blatantly failed to do.

      Obama had not failed– spending is controlled and revenues are up!

      – As I stated in my previous reply, both Bush and Obama have been highly fiscally irresponsible. But the problem of overspending is now much greater than before and so needs even more priority focus and effort to bring under control.

      There simply is no “problem with overspending” and I don’t see how anyone can make the argument that Obama has been fiscally irresponsible!

      – The recession ended in June 2009 and GDP has now been growing again ever since. It is long past time to bring spending in line with tax revenues.

      And that is *exactly* what is happening!

      – Spending took a big jump, of $500 billion, from 2008 to 2009.

      Yes, but most of those increases are “automatic stabilizers” such as unemployment insurance. They are not controlled by either the president or the congress. They go up automatically by statute– that 2008/2009 increase in spending would have occurred under any president and regardless of the party controlling congress.

      – This changes nothing about my basic premise, that deficits are too large and need to be shrunk one way or another.

      And they are shrinking! On *both* the spending and revenue fronts. So what’s the problem?

      As far as the current data, I really don’t understand why you don’t think Obama is a great president. If we had had a Republican president (or had you been elected to congress), I’m sure you’d be touting the data in my link as sure evidence of your (and your party’s) effectiveness.

      But when it’s Obama, he’s fiscally irresponsible and shirking his duties. I would say you’re being completely political.

      I also have to ask– doesn’t the fact that you didn’t know all this and, in fact, had it 100% backward fatally question your understanding of our current fiscal situation and your credibility to pontificate on it?

      How can you be “deficit specialist” writing a blog on fiscal responsibility and yet have the most fundamental facts so wrong?

  6. There are two basic problems with Obama’s fiscal record:
    1. He has (and will have) added $7 trillion to the national debt over his eight years in office. This increases our debt from about 40% of GDP when he took office to 73% today. For many years to come it will be a huge burden on the nation, mostly on our descendants, to pay it down as a percentage of GDP (it will never actually be paid off or even paid down in absolute dollars).
    2. His latest budget makes no attempt to get started on this enormous task. All he proposes to do, over the next ten years, is to stabilize the debt (https://itdoesnotaddup.com/2015/02/05/the-presidents-budget-stabilization-of-the-debt-is-not-enough/), i.e. keep it at the same high percentage of GDP as the economy continues to grow slowly (hopefully). For the debt to remain at this very high level of 73% of GDP indefinitely is very dangerous. What’s going to happen when the next emergency comes, as it surely will? We will have little flexibility to react to it successfully, as we did, at least so far, to the financial crisis in 2008.

  7. You simply cannot give an incoming president “credit” for the previous president’s budget. It doesn’t work that way, and you know it. Giving Bush partial credit for the surplus Clinton left him is disingenuous at best and flat out dishonest at worst. If Bush had left a FY2009 surplus of $200B would you have been so quick to give Obama credit for $175B of it? Of course not.

    There are plenty of legitimate reasons to attack Obama’s fiscal record without devolving into partisan hackery.

    • It seems to me that if we’re going to talk about who is responsible for what, we need to at least start out on a factual basis. That’s what I am doing in this post, simply computing the actual deficits which occurred during Bush’s 8 years in office and likewise for Obama’s 8 years, using CBO projections to finish out Obama’s term.

      • …”The most objective way to do this, in my opinion, is to divide the transition budget years, 2001 and 2009, between the incoming and outgoing presidents.”… Uh, no. It’s not. The 2009 budget was Bush’s budget and in place before Obama’s first budget for 2010. Bush is solely responsible for that. Sorry.

  8. I’m talking about actual spending records during time in office, not proposed budgets. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, signed by Obama in Spring 2009, added hundred’s of billions to the Obama debt.

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