This post is from Political Math who demonstrates Political and Economic Information through Visualization and Other Math-y Things
In this video, I wanted to take a close look at the historical nature of the US debt. Unfortunately, I couldn’t say all I wanted to say or it would have been three times as long and I would have bored myself to death trying to make it.
First of all, I would like to state that I am not trying to defend President Bush’s spending. I personally think Bush was spending far too much. My preference would be to reduce the debt… or at least stay put and let inflation take it’s toll on the debt. My point in this video is that it is the most absurd hypocrisy for someone to complain about how much Bush spent and then yawn when Obama is spending so much more.
A close look at the numbers reveals that this isn’t even a “We’re in a recession, we have to spend that money” issue. Obama’s high deficit plans continue long after the recession is projected to end.
Next, I want to give some pointers to the data I used and then I want to clear up some of the muddier issues in the video.
In order to understand where the debt would be in 2016, I used the the President’s estimate in his latest budget proposal. These numbers are generally accepted to be optimistic (the Congressional Budget Office has them pegged at much higher), but I didn’t want to put the president at an unfair advantage.
Actually (and I would do this over again if I could) I calculated the future debt with regards to inflation (I assumed about 1.0% inflation per year) so that President Obama is going slower than if I just used his own numbers. I tried to bend the numbers to Obama’s advantage, not because I agree with him, but so that there is no room for the accusation of number fudging.
In retrospect, I think it would have been more fair to assume that the President’s team had already assumed the inflation calculation and that their 2016 debt data was calculated in 2016 money and not 2008 money.
So that’s all about the calculations… now I’d like to make a note about some other decisions I made. I thought it was important to keep in mind which party held Congress. The reason is because it is actually more accurate to say
“Under President So-and-so, the debt increased by X amount”
due to the fact that the president only proposes the budget and must work with Congress in order to get a budget passed.
In 1994, we voted in a Congress that was remarkably fiscally conservative… so much so that they fought a protracted battle with President Clinton in 1995 trying desperately to get him to agree to a lower budget. The press ripped the Republican Congress (particularly Newt Gingrich) to shreds over it and they (the Republicans) ended up conceeding the matter.
On the other side of things, Reagan tried to pass smaller budgets, but the House of Representitives was heavily Democratic and added to his proposed budget until he refused to sign, leading to another government shutdown.
Long story short, the budget is a combined effort of what the president proposes and what the Congress decides, so I thought it was only fair to mention both sides of the equation once the debt really started increasing drastically. This, of course, is only more damning to Bush and Obama, since both of them have (or had) a situation in which their party is in complete control of the government.