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Republicans Baked America’s National Debt “Pie” August 13, 2011

Posted by Mary W. Matthews in Politics.

GOP lies about how Obama is solely responsible for the Bush Crash of 2008, the Bush Recession that began after the crash, the Bush wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the pain caused to the economy by the annual Bush tax gifts to the wealthy began early in 2009, of course. Probably on January 21, 2009.

But the GOP began its 2012 campaign for the presidency in June 2011 with the airing of five or six TV commercials (per half-hour) blaming the Bush Recession on Obama and whatever vulnerable Democrats might be in office in a given state — for example, in Florida, “Tell Senator Nelson, ‘no more blank checks!’ ” (As if any Democrat had ever been given a blank check by any Republicans!) Nowadays, the radical extremists who are posing as conservatives are also pretending that the various fiscal crises they have created since Obama took office are all Obama’s fault, including the Tea Party Depression.

I just spent some quality time with facts provided by the Treasury Department, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and similar sources. The facts tell a dramatically different story.

I started by obtaining the amount of the U.S. national debt in January 1977 (Carter’s inauguration), January 1981 (Reagan’s inauguration), January 1989 (Bush/41’s inauguration), January 1993 (Clinton’s inauguration), January 2001 (Bush/43’s inauguration), and January 2009 (Obama’s inauguration). Since a large percentage of Obama’s budgets have had to include Bush’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Bush’s annual tax gifts to the wealthy, Bush’s unfunded Medicare Part D, and Bush’s attempts to rescue the economy from the calamity caused by his policies in 2007, I threw in January 2010 and January 2011 for good measure.

Next, using the Bureau of Labor Statistics calculator, I translated every figure into 2011 dollars. The national debt handed to Carter by Ford was about $683 billion in 1977 dollars, for example; but that’s $2.545 trillion in 2011 dollars. Something of a difference!

In constant, 2011 trillions of dollars, here is the national debt in the specified Januaries:



In 2011 Trillions




























(Bush/43’s budget)




(43 + 44)

These are fairly dry numbers, although several facts leap out: In eight years, Ronald Reagan more than doubled the national debt. In 12 years, Reagan and Bush/41 together came close to tripling the national debt. Carter, a Democrat, was the only president to reduce the national debt; however, Clinton, a Democrat, both balanced the budget and handed his successor a SURPLUS.

In their fiscal planning, both Clinton and Gore were confident that by sticking with Democratic fiscal discipline, the U.S. could reduce its national debt to ZERO no later than 2009.

(Neither Clinton nor Gore could have foreseen 9/11, of course. But if President Gore had been presented with an August 6, 2001 briefing “Bin Laden determined to strike in US,” the chances are excellent he would NOT have replied, “All right, you’ve covered your ass” and gone back to his vacation, as Bush did. Gore, who had infinitely more experience in government than Dubya, would have quietly mobilized every available strike force, and both Osama bin Laden and the top echelon of al Qaeda would have been dead by the end of August 2001.

(But if 9/11 had happened in the President Gore alternate universe, the Democrats would never in a million years have allowed Osama to escape because they were busy diverting resources from Afghanistan to Iraq; they would never have started Bush’s dishonest, illegal war in Iraq in the first place; and they would never have put both wars on the nation’s credit card — and then concealed the costs from the public by pretending they were “emergency spending” — while advising voters to “Go shopping! Put everything on your credit card!”)

Bear in mind also that a large percentage of Obama’s first two budgets (2010 and 2011) consists of Bush’s war in Afghanistan, Bush’s war in Iraq, Bush’s annual tax gifts to the wealthy, Bush’s unfunded Medicare Part D, and the various programs designed to rescue the economy from Bush’s own calamitous mismanagement, such as Bush’s TARP program.

The following pie chart attempts to show you the same data you see above, but more visually. The “clock” starts at 0; “noon” is $16 trillion. The debt passed by Ford to Carter includes the last spending related to the Viet Nam war, and I show it with the pretty stripes to indicate its bipartisan origins. The $216 billion (in 2011 dollars) by which Carter reduced the national debt is superimposed on the pretty stripes, and thus looks purple.

I have also superimposed the appropriate slivers of color to show the portion of Obama’s national debts that represents commitments made by Bush/43, such as his annual tax gifts to the wealthy. Because I did not do so for earlier presidents, I did not include 2009, the last year budgeted by Bush/43, in Bush/43’s ocean of red ink; I merely indicated my best guess as to the portion of the “Obama” budget attributable to Afghanistan, Iraq, the Bush annual tax gifts to the wealthy, Medicare Part D, and the Bush administration’s attempts to save the United States from the consequences of Bush deregulation and Bush’s economic mismanagement.

The “pie” above is dramatic enough. But now look at the same “pie” sorted by political party:

LOOK at all that red! This is the party of “fiscal prudence” — the party that’s responsible for well over 85 percent of all additions to the national debt since 1977. This is the party that has taken as religious dogma Reagan’s (and Cheney’s) famous “deficits don’t matter.” This is the party that has embraced the failed ideology of trickle-down economics. If the promises made for Bush’s tax gifts to the wealthy were true, today we would have zero unemployment and a stretch limo in every garage.

“Deficits don’t matter.” Unless the president is a Democrat, of course. Then deficits matter so much that it becomes urgently important for the poorer 90 per­cent of American society to suffer, while any attempt to ask the top 10 per­cent to share in the nation’s sacrifice results in a flood of TV com­mer­cials from the American Petroleum Institute and similar oliGOParchs about what a terrible idea it is to ask the wealthy to pay anything whatsoever.

While the GOP’s “base” continues to increase its control of American finances. In 1981, the poorer 90 percent controlled more than two-thirds of the economy. Today, the poorer 90 percent control not quite 26 percent of the economy. Doesn’t your heart bleed for the Koch brothers, the DeVos family, and similar oliGOParchs, that they control “only” 84 percent of America’s wealth, instead of the 100 percent they have been working for so assiduously?


Raw figures for each year’s national debt: the U.S. Treasury.
Cost of living calculator: Bureau of Labor Statistics
January 2011 CBS News story on national debt
The Cost of War in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya
Wikipedia article on
Medicare Part D



1. Robert Doyle - August 13, 2011

A very humble pie for the republicants.

2. Republican “Ineptocracy” « Half Wisdom, Half Wit - November 11, 2011

[…] and the two Bushes added 85 percent of today’s national debt, Joey. This is a FACT. (Here’s proof.) The three “conservative” presidents dismantled decades of regulations protecting […]

3. Benjamin Davenport - November 17, 2011

If we used nuclear weapons instead of infantry to solve our foreign problems, it would be so much cheaper. Seriously, though, it’s pathetic that our government can’t balance its budget, and that our country is fighting other peoples’ wars. Your pie charts are cute, but false, as tax cuts cannot under any circumstances be considered as “spending”. Your glorified Democrats are just as bad as the Republicans at spending more than we have, and if you look at our national debt in relation to GDP, Obama has screwed us far worse than Bush ever did (though he was pretty bad, too)…

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