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National debt by U.S. presidential terms

 

Gross federal debt

This table lists the gross federal debt[1] as a percent of GDP by Presidential term since World War II.[2] It is currently the highest since 1955. For net jobs changes, see Jobs created during U.S. presidential terms. The elected representatives of the United States share responsibility for making the decisions which bring about changes in the national debt. All spending bills start in the House of Representatives. It should be noted that often the sitting President faces an opposition Congress.[3]

U.S. president  ↓ Party  ↓ Term years  ↓ Start debt/GDP*  ↓ End debt/GDP*  ↓ Increase debt ($T)  ↓ Increase debt/GDP  ↓

Roosevelt/Truman

D

1945-1949

117.5%

93.2%

0.05

-24.3%

Truman Harry Truman

D

1949-1953

93.2%

71.3%

0.01

-21.9%

Eisenhower1 Dwight Eisenhower

R

1953-1957

71.3%

60.5%

0.01

-10.8%

Eisenhower2 Dwight Eisenhower

R

1957-1961

60.5%

55.1%

0.02

-5.4%

Kennedy/Johnson

D

1961-1965

55.1%

46.9%

0.03

-8.2%

Johnson Lyndon Johnson

D

1965-1969

46.9%

38.6%

0.05

-8.3%

Nixon1 Richard Nixon

R

1969-1973

38.6%

35.7%

0.07

-2.9%

Nixon2 Nixon/Ford

R

1973-1977

35.7%

35.8%

0.19

+0.1%

Carter Jimmy Carter

D

1977-1981

35.8%

32.6%

0.18

-3.2%

Reagan1 Ronald Reagan

R

1981-1985

32.6%

43.9%

0.65

+11.3%

Reagan2 Ronald Reagan

R

1985-1989

43.9%

53.1%

1.04

+9.2%

Bush GHW George H. W. Bush

R

1989-1993

53.1%

66.2%

1.40

+13.1%

Clinton1 Bill Clinton

D

1993-1997

66.2%

65.6%

1.12

-0.6%

Clinton2 Bill Clinton

D

1997-2001

65.6%

57.4%

0.42

-8.2%

Bush GW1 George W. Bush

R

2001-2005

57.4%

64.3%

1.15

+6.9%

Bush GW2 George W. Bush

R

2005-2009

64.3%

68.2% projection

 

+3.9% projection

Public debt

It is important to note the difference between the fiscal terms gross debt and public debt. In brief, the public debt is the gross debt less the amount the government owes itself. The figure below shows the trend in public debt with the background colored by the party controlling the executive.

Time series of U.S. public debt overlaid with partisan affiliation of the White House. The top frame gives the public debt in trillions of USD and the bottom normalizes that by GDP. (Data is from the 2009 U.S. Budget)

Federal spending, federal debt, and GDP

The below table shows the annual federal spending, gross federal debt, and gross domestic product for average presidential parties, specific presidential terms, and specific fiscal years.[4]

Fiscal Year Budget of President Party of President Federal Spending Federal Debt Gross Domestic Product Inflation Adjustor[5]
Billions[6] Adjusted[7] Increase Billions[8] Adjusted[9] Increase Billions[10] Adjusted[11] Increase
1978-2005   Democratic     9.9%     4.2%     12.6%  
1978-2005   Republican     12.1%     36.4%     10.7%  
1978-1981 Carter Democratic $678 $1,219 17.2% $994 $1,787 -0.4% $3,055 $5,492 9.4%  
1982-1985 Reagan Republican $946 $1,396 14.5% $1,817 $2,680 49.0% $4,142 $6,108 11.2%  
1986-1989 Reagan Republican $1,144 $1,499 7.4% $2,867 $3,757 40.2% $5,401 $7,077 15.9%  
1990-1993 Bush Republican $1,410 $1,615 7.8% $4,351 $4,987 32.7% $6,576 $7,536 6.5%  
1994-1997 Clinton Democratic $1,601 $1,684 4.3% $5,369 $5,647 13.2% $8,182 $8,606 14.2%  
1998-2001 Clinton Democratic $1,863 $1,821 8.1% $5,769 $5,638 -0.2% $10,058 $9,829 14.2%  
2002-2005 Bush Republican $2,472 $2,165 18.9% $7,905 $6,923 22.8% $12,238 $10,717 9.0%  
1977 Ford Republican $409 $1,040   $706 $1,795   $1,974 $5,019   0.39
1978 Carter Democratic $459 $1,093 5.1% $776 $1,850 3.1% $2,217 $5,285 5.3% 0.42
1979 Carter Democratic $504 $1,107 1.3% $829 $1,821 -1.5% $2,501 $5,494 4.0% 0.46
1980 Carter Democratic $591 $1,175 6.1% $909 $1,808 -0.8% $2,727 $5,422 -1.3% 0.50
1981 Carter Democratic $678 $1,219 3.8% $994 $1,787 -1.1% $3,055 $5,492 1.3% 0.56
1982 Reagan Republican $746 $1,252 2.6% $1,137 $1,908 6.8% $3,228 $5,417 -1.4% 0.60
1983 Reagan Republican $808 $1,294 3.4% $1,371 $2,195 15.0% $3,441 $5,510 1.7% 0.62
1984 Reagan Republican $852 $1,300 0.4% $1,564 $2,386 8.7% $3,840 $5,858 6.3% 0.66
1985 Reagan Republican $946 $1,396 7.4% $1,817 $2,680 12.3% $4,142 $6,108 4.3% 0.68
1986 Reagan Republican $990 $1,426 2.1% $2,120 $3,052 13.9% $4,412 $6,352 4.0% 0.69
1987 Reagan Republican $1,004 $1,406 -1.4% $2,345 $3,283 7.6% $4,647 $6,506 2.4% 0.71
1988 Reagan Republican $1,065 $1,447 2.9% $2,601 $3,534 7.7% $5,009 $6,806 4.6% 0.74
1989 Reagan Republican $1,144 $1,499 3.6% $2,867 $3,757 6.3% $5,401 $7,077 4.0% 0.76
1990 Bush Republican $1,253 $1,590 6.1% $3,206 $4,067 8.3% $5,735 $7,277 2.8% 0.79
1991 Bush Republican $1,324 $1,610 1.3% $3,598 $4,374 7.5% $5,935 $7,215 -0.8% 0.82
1992 Bush Republican $1,382 $1,624 0.9% $4,001 $4,703 7.5% $6,240 $7,334 1.7% 0.85
1993 Bush Republican $1,410 $1,615 -0.5% $4,351 $4,987 6.0% $6,576 $7,536 2.8% 0.87
1994 Clinton Democratic $1,462 $1,642 1.7% $4,643 $5,216 4.6% $6,961 $7,820 3.8% 0.89
1995 Clinton Democratic $1,516 $1,662 1.2% $4,920 $5,395 3.4% $7,326 $8,033 2.7% 0.91
1996 Clinton Democratic $1,561 $1,673 0.7% $5,181 $5,554 3.0% $7,694 $8,248 2.7% 0.93
1997 Clinton Democratic $1,601 $1,684 0.7% $5,369 $5,647 1.7% $8,182 $8,606 4.3% 0.95
1998 Clinton Democratic $1,653 $1,721 2.2% $5,478 $5,704 1.0% $8,628 $8,985 4.4% 0.96
1999 Clinton Democratic $1,702 $1,746 1.5% $5,605 $5,750 0.8% $9,125 $9,361 4.2% 0.97
2000 Clinton Democratic $1,789 $1,789 2.5% $5,628 $5,628 -2.1% $9,710 $9,710 3.7% 1.00
2001 Clinton Democratic $1,863 $1,821 1.8% $5,769 $5,638 0.2% $10,058 $9,829 1.2% 1.02
2002 Bush Republican $2,011 $1,929 6.0% $6,198 $5,945 5.5% $10,377 $9,954 1.3% 1.04
2003 Bush Republican $2,160 $2,018 4.6% $6,760 $6,316 6.2% $10,809 $10,099 1.4% 1.07
2004 Bush Republican $2,293 $2,082 3.2% $7,354 $6,677 5.7% $11,500 $10,441 3.4% 1.10
2005 Bush Republican $2,472 $2,165 4.0% $7,905 $6,923 3.7% $12,238 $10,717 2.6% 1.14
2006 Bush Republican $2,655 $2,249 3.9% $8,451 $7,158 3.4% $13,016 $11,024 2.9% 1.18
2007 Bush Republican $2,730 $2,263 0.6% $8,951 $7,419 3.6% $13,668 $11,329 2.8% 1.21

Formula notes

  • The dollar amounts for each presidential term are taken from the last fiscal year in that term.

  • The increase in each presidential term is the increase in the adjusted amount from the last fiscal year of the previous term to the last fiscal year of the current term.

  • The value for each presidential party is the average of the values for all the presidents in that party.

Related graphs

Annual U.S. budget from 1901-2006, spending (red) and receipts (blue)

 

Annual U.S. budget from 1901-2006, spending (red) and receipts (blue)

Annual U.S. budget from 1901-2006, spending (red) and receipts (blue)

 

Gross debt as percentage of GDP from 1977-2007


 

 Notes

  1. ^ The gross federal debt includes intra-government debt, i.e. money owed by one branch of the federal government to another. When this amount is subtracted the remaining quantity is known as the public debt.

  2. ^ Budget FY2007

  3. ^ [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Party_divisions_of_United_States_Congresses.

  4. ^ Budget FY 2009

  5. ^ Budget FY2009. Addendum: Composite Deflator, page 26. Divide current dollars by this number to produce value in (constant) FY2000 dollars.

  6. ^ Budget FY2009. Outlays in current dollars, page 26.

  7. ^ Budget FY2009. Outlays in current dollars, page 26, divided by Inflation Adjustor.

  8. ^ Budget FY 2009. Gross Federal Debt in current dollars, page 127.

  9. ^ Budget FY 2009. Gross Federal Debt in current dollars, page 127, divided by Inflation Adjustor.

  10. ^ Budget FY2009. GDP (Gross Domestic Product) in current dollars, page 194.

  11. ^ Budget FY2009. GDP (Gross Domestic Product) in current dollars, page 194, divided by Inflation Adjustor.

    References