last updated 29 May 2023
Reagan took the deficit from 70 billion to 175 billion. 
Bush 41 took it to 300 billion. 
Clinton got it to zero. 
Bush 43 took it from 0 to 1.2 trillion.
Obama halved it to 600 billion. 
Trump's got it back to a trillion.
This was listed as Mostly True in Truth-o-meter


Debt as a percent of GDP:

Federal Spending Carter - Obama:

When the Great Recession (2007-2009)sent the economy in reverse, GDP went down, spending as a share of GDP soared when Obama took office, but has come back in line with historical trends.

The Fiscal Year 2009 budget describes Federal government revenue and spending for October 1, 2008, through September 30, 2009. The Bush Administration submitted it to Congress in February 2008, but Congress stated it was dead on arrival. Why? It was the first budget to propose spending more than $3 trillion, it underfunded the War on Terror, and its revenue projections ignored the warning signs of recession.
As a result, it wasn't signed until President Obama took office in 2009.
Source: FY 2009 U.S. Federal Budget and Spending |

In 2009 most of the $1 Trillion deficit was because of:
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)  $253 B
The Troubled Assed Recovery Program (TARP)         $151 B
The Increase in DOD spending for the War on Terror $145 B
The Revenue shortfall because of the recession     $595 B

TARP was an outgrowth of the October 2008 bank bailout bill.
ARRA called the Stimulus Act was passed by congress
 and signed by President Obama in Feb. 2009. (6/2012) says,
The truth is that the nearly 18 percent spike in spending in fiscal 2009 — for which the president is sometimes blamed entirely — was mostly due to appropriations and policies that were already in place when Obama took office.

That includes spending for the bank bailout legislation approved by President Bush. Annual increases in amounts actually spent since fiscal 2009 have been relatively modest. In fact, spending for the first seven months of the current fiscal year is running slightly below the same period last year, and below projections.

When G.W. Bush was adding a trillion dollar deficit over 5 years for the Iraq war (It will ultimately cost much more.), while cutting taxes, Dick Chaney said "Ronald Regal proved that deficits don't matter".
The same people who supported the Bush spending are now complaining that the Obama Administration's healthcare initiative which will spend a trillion dollars over 10 years to save hundreds of thousands of lives, is bad. (About 300,000 have died from direct war related violence caused by the U.S., its allies, the Iraqi military and police, and opposition forces from the time of the invasion through March 2023)

See also: US Federal Debt - Charts Tables History at

Trump's turn? Republican presidents rule recessions | USA Today Nov 21, 2016

Trump's turn? Republican presidents rule recessions | USA Today Nov 21, 2016
Recessions began after 14 presidential inaugurations since 1901. Number of months each recession lasted:

Credit: George Petras and Janet Loehrke, USA TODAY

Real GDP growth, a measure of economic activity in the U.S., averaged 3.33% during the 64 years and 16 presidential terms going back to President Truman in the mid-1940s, according to a 2013 research paper by professors of economics Alan Blinder and Mark Watson at Princeton University. With a Republican in the White House, though, the economy's growth slowed to 2.54%, the economists found. With a Democrat in office, growth jumped to 4.35% on average.

Evidence pointing to better economic growth under Democrats is an illusion created by the timing of when presidents enter office, says Timothy Kane at the Hoover Institution think tank at Stanford University. Factoring in the one-year lag between the time a new president is elected and when the policy effects kick in, "there is no statistically significant advantage for either party in the White House," Kane says. Presidents inherit problems that were created by policy decisions before they were elected, Kane says.

debt limit votes republican democrat

unemployment clinton, bush, obama, regan, nixon

Defense Spending:
We spend $721 Billion (more than all other countries combined). Since WWII we’ve spent about $30 Trillion on defense Adjusted for inflation. More than our total national debt.
Employment - The Recession of 2007–2009: BLS Spotlight on Statistics

Sure there are what Reagan called welfare queens, but when the unemployment rate went from 7.5% to over 10% in 1982 that's 4 million additional people unemployed and a total of 15 million unemployed. Labor force = # of people over 16 years old (149 M in 2015)

Dates Length
peak un-
at start
1929-1938 43 30% 25% Hoover
Nov 1973 - Mar 1975 16 3.2% 9.0% Nixon
July 1981 - Nov 1982 14 2.7% 10.8% Regan
July 1990 - March 1991 8 1.4% 7.8% Bush
March 2001 - Nov 2001 8 0.3% 6.3% Bush
Dec 2007 - June 2009: 18 4.1% 10.1% Bush
Unemployment data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Tax rates in other countries
Federal Spending at
Budget of the United States Government: Historical Tables at OMB at
U.S. Balance of power President - Congress
Which Political Party Increased Government Spending At a Faster Rate? at
The Truth About Who's Responsible For Our Massive Budget Deficit - Business Insider

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