Bush’s deficits vs. Obama’s deficits, in one graph

If you only look at one graph today, let it be this one from economics blogger Keith Hennessey:

Budget deficits under Bush and Obama

I have commented before about the difference between George W. Bush’s deficits — which Barack Obama recently described as a “a decade of spiraling deficits — and Obama’s own actual and projected deficits. The difference is one of magnitude and, as the graph linked above clearly illustrates, one of direction.

With the exception of 2009, every single projected budget deficit in a two-term Obama presidency would be higher than every single actual budget deficit in Bush’s two terms. And even in 2009, Obama managed to take the 8.3 percent deficit he inherited and ratchet it up by another 1.6 percentage points.

As Hennessey explains in his own post:

This graph does not show “a decade of spiraling deficits.” It instead shows eight years of deficits averaging 2.0 percent of GDP, followed by a horrible ninth year as the markets collapsed and the economy plunged into recession. … Even 2008’s bigger deficit than 2007 can be mostly explained by a revenue decline as the economy slipped into recession pre-crash. Before the crash of late 2008 President Bush’s budget deficits were 0.6 percentage points smaller than the historic average. Deficits did not “spiral” during the Bush presidency or the decade. The bumped around the historic average, then spiked up in the last year.

Yeah, but what about that horrible 8.3% in 2009 when President Bush left office? That figure is a combination of a severe decline in federal revenues as the economy tanked, plus the projected costs of TARP for fiscal year 2009. If we include that terrible ninth year in the Bush average (as we should), then the average Bush deficit is still only 2.7%, one tenth of a percentage point above the average over the past four decades. (All data are from CBO’s [the Congressional Budget Office's] historic tables.)

Yes, that last year sucked. Yes, when President Obama took office he faced an enormous projected budget deficit for his first year in office (which jumped from 8.3% when President Bush left in January to 9.9% at the end of that fiscal year). But it is inaccurate and misleading to characterize the previous decade as “a decade of spiraling deficits.”

And then:

Which exactly is the decade of spiraling deficits? The last one, or the one we’re beginning now?

For comparison:

* Bush average: 2.7% (including the 8.3% for FY 2009 when President Bush left office in January);

* Obama average (projected for two terms spanning nine fiscal years): 6.35%

Hennessey uses the historical budget-deficit average from 1970 onward, which is 2.6 percent of gross domestic product. If you go back further, to 1960, the average falls slightly to 2.3 percent of GDP, according to this Wall Street Journal op-ed (which also explains why Bush’s tax cuts were responsible for such a small portion of the budget deficits during his administration).

If you want to know why Hennessey counts nine budgets for a two-term presidency, you can read the full explanation here. (The short answer is that fiscal years don’t overlap neatly with presidential years, and thus a two-term president has seven budgets completely during his administration, as well as having a hand in both the budget when he takes office and the budget when he leaves office.)

319 comments Add your comment

wallbanger

July 13th, 2010
11:12 am

I guess that last year of the Bush era was marked by the crashing of the housing market due to the loans required to be made to those who could not afford to pay them. I have never bought the argument however, that just because the guy that went before me was not a good fiscal manager, that excuse my excesses. We need some restraint in spending, and we need it right now. We also need to curtail all governmental services to illegals. They have not paid for them, and drain them from the taxpayers who have.

Peter

July 13th, 2010
11:29 am

Kyle…Does Bush’s deficit take in consideration for the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars ?

Thank you !

Road Scholar

July 13th, 2010
11:37 am

I wonder what the deficits would be if Bush continued to be President? What is the lag time on a presidential change over (that is, how long would an economic trend continue with the same policies that led to it’s ‘recent’ trend? How fast can a ship change direction? I’d like to see Kyle’s answer to Peter’s valid question.

Rockerbabe

July 13th, 2010
11:41 am

This graph is bogus; the Iraqi and Afghanistan wars are not being represented in any meaningful way. As usual, a hack “journalist” misleading readers about money being spent. Even if what is being PROJECTED about Pbama is true, it is going to take a lot of money to clean up Bush’s messes. Everyone knows that cleaning up after a storm is far more expensive than the initial building. Stop all this misdirection, it serves no purpose except to harm the American public and lies are just that lies.

CrazyInGA

July 13th, 2010
11:45 am

Kyle – will I hit the lottery this week? If you could provide numbers, I would greatly appreciate it.

Also, I didn’t know Obama would be President in 2020. I guess your future predictions are going to come true. I sure hope I hit the lottery, if you send them to me.

I’m also glad to see that the world will not end by 2020.

Kyle Wingfield

July 13th, 2010
11:49 am

Peter, as far as I can tell from looking at the CBO tables Hennessey linked to, this is total federal spending and revenue. So, I think it does include spending on the wars.

Road Scholar: The better question imo is what the trend line would look like absent the recession. In other words, if you take out the collapse in revenue and the stimulus spending, where would the trend line point? If you assume that the recession-induced spike runs between two inflection points, 2008 and 2014, you see that the Bush-era trend pointed down but the Obama-era trend points up. Some of that reflects SS, Medicare, Medicaid, but it also reflects new spending programs — as well (I think) as the projected end of the Bush tax cuts and drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan, which in CBO scoring ought to mean downward pressure on the deficit … yet the deficit points upward anyway.

Rockerbabe: If you can point to where the CBO documents state that spending on the wars isn’t represented, please do so.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

July 13th, 2010
11:50 am

With all due respect, budget “deficits” are meaningless; what matters is the level of spending. The market is unable to distinguish higher taxes from “crowding out,” and both are poisonous for the economy. I would love to see graphs of the more meaningful “nonmilitary spending.” Military spending is theoretically a necessary obligation of the central government; there is no “nonmilitary spending” that is anything other than elective.

Kyle Wingfield

July 13th, 2010
11:51 am

Sorry, should have said the inflection points are 2007 and 2014.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

July 13th, 2010
11:55 am

As a president cannot legally impound funds, would it not make more sense to run the correlations to the control of the House of Representatives? Wonder what that would show?

ChickenBush

July 13th, 2010
11:59 am

Bush was the chicken that laid the egg then left the nest and went cackling and strutting across the barnyard, leaving the unhatched chick for others to tend. Remember when Kyle?

Gator Joe

July 13th, 2010
12:13 pm

Kyle,
I prefer the current deficit spending which has saved the banking system (for now), improved access to, and the quality of, healthcare. Much of Bush’s deficit spending was the cutting of taxes for the upper income brackets and an unecessary war which killed thousands of American troops and countless innocent Iraqi citizens.

Dave

July 13th, 2010
12:22 pm

You mean the wars that Obama (who pledged to end the wars as part of his campaign promises) continues to wage. You mean THOSE wars? It seems that when you actually ENTER the game for real, it’s not as easy to make good on all of those unrealistic promises that the sheeple that are the Democrats believed him to be able to do. In other words….we all got SUCKERS inprinted on our foreheads after he took office. And I was one of the suckers that voted for that turn coat, Obama!

Grand Forks

July 13th, 2010
12:28 pm

Grand Forks

July 13th, 2010
12:29 pm

“unecessary war which killed thousands”

One, please use spell check. Two, you constantly rant about the wars yet you never ever ever never ever never ever ever say anything about Obama continuing to both wars.

Grand Forks

July 13th, 2010
12:30 pm

“Does Bush’s deficit take in consideration for the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars ?”

Ask Obama, he’s continuing both wars.

Grand Forks

July 13th, 2010
12:31 pm

“I wonder what the deficits would be if Bush continued to be President?”

A lot less than what it is under Obama.

Evil-Doer

July 13th, 2010
12:34 pm

That’s a real purty graph….

Port O'John

July 13th, 2010
12:35 pm

I think you’re engaging in a bit of revisionist history here Kyle. Prior to FY 10, war costs were funded through special appropriations and were not included in budget deficit calculations. Its odd that you assert something as true, without a basis for saying so, but then make people who question your questionable statements, to disprove them.

I think you choose the facts (and graphs) that support your pre-conceived opinion. But then, that’s the point, no?

I think if you look into you will find that even GOP fiscal conservatives (and there are not really many of them) also criticized the Bush Administration for hiding the costs of the wars from the deficit calculations.

http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0116/p01s01-usfp.html

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Funding_the_war_in_Iraq

Get Real

July 13th, 2010
12:36 pm

If you are one that believes in the Hope and Change that Obozo promised and still think this idiot is doing a good job, there really isn’t a way to have an intellegent discussion because you probably still believe that Peter Pan can fly, there’s a tooth fairy and Obozo is for America!

Realityhurts

July 13th, 2010
12:37 pm

Last election, I voted for “Anyone, but Bush”. Now since I’ve been hosed by that result, I’ll vote for “Anyone but Obama”.

Gator Joe

July 13th, 2010
12:39 pm

GF:
Thanks for reading my posts!

Grand Forks

July 13th, 2010
12:42 pm

“Thanks for reading my posts!”

Yeah, I had a great time laughing at your contradictory comments. Thanks for the laugh!

David S

July 13th, 2010
12:44 pm

Lies, damn lies, and statistics.

Considering that virtually every dollar wasted (yes, I said wasted) on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has come from “off budget” appropriations, I don’t see how anyone can look at government figures and tell anything. I am not saying that Obama’s spending has been anything less than immoral, disgraceful, or treasonous, but to put Bush’s in any positive light is to ignore the economic fiasco we are now all a part of.

The rampant printing of money by the Federal Reserve, the lowering of interests to an appalling 0% following 9-11 and the like have all served to undermine the dollar in ways only the future will show. This inflation has been as destructive to the american public if not more so than any statistical deficit spending.

This graph is nothing more than a feeble attempt by another conservative hack (that was redundant) to justify the criminal Bush regime and the destruction it heaped upon our country during its horrible 8 years of existence.

I believe in freedom and fiscal responsibility. The sooner we start blaming both Bush and Obama for our economic situation the sooner we will realize that the solution is not to be found with government, but with an end to government.

Grand Forks

July 13th, 2010
12:44 pm

“I think if you look into you will find that even GOP fiscal conservatives (and there are not really many of them) also criticized the Bush Administration for hiding the costs of the wars from the deficit calculations.”

In 2006, conservatives stayed home and let the GOP kicked out of office. You’re right, there are not many fiscal conservative GOPers out there in office right now. That’s why the Tea Party is important and is getting rid of the Specters out there.

Gator Joe

July 13th, 2010
12:46 pm

GF:
Rest assured I’ll keep the laughs comming!

Grand Forks

July 13th, 2010
12:47 pm

“Rest assured I’ll keep the laughs comming!”

You do that Gator. And please please please remember to use spell check! Thanks

Kyle Wingfield

July 13th, 2010
12:47 pm

Port O’John: I understand what you mean about supplemental appropriations. What I’m saying is that these data, as far as I can tell, measure *total* spending and revenue, and not just what is in “the budget.” If so, it would include all spending, including special appropriations for the wars.

Kyle Wingfield

July 13th, 2010
12:48 pm

Gman: This post is not about the governor’s race, so please stick to the topic.

JKL2

July 13th, 2010
12:49 pm

Socialism is great until you run out of other people’s money to spend.

Fall in with Obama’s new world order and pay your taxes until we get our household incomes down to the $14,600 average we deserve!

Stop being so greedy and pay your fair share.

Kyle Wingfield

July 13th, 2010
12:51 pm

Btw, none of this is to say that Bush’s spending record was A-OK. But let’s be honest about what went on during his presidency and what’s happening, and projected to happen, under Obama. As I’ve said before, it’s not “good” to “bad.”

But nor is it, as Obama implies, “worse” to “bad.” It is very clearly the other way around — “bad” to “worse.”

Grand Forks

July 13th, 2010
12:53 pm

Kyle Wingfield

Curious, why did you take down my list of presidents who never went to college? Don’t recall there being anything “inappropriate.”

Fergie

July 13th, 2010
12:54 pm

If you want to make President Obama look bad, then listen to the sorry explanation of what this graph shows. I am no rocket scientist, but I can read a graph and your explanation sucks.

Peter

July 13th, 2010
12:54 pm

Bad answer Kyle….Please don’t think maybe it does….Please be sure ………

Can you get the correct answer ?

Does the Bush spending include both Wars, and is it part of the Bush deficit ?

I think the numbers do NOT include the Wars Kyle……so I think that your graph is misleading.

Grand Forks

July 13th, 2010
12:56 pm

“If you want to make President Obama look bad”

No one but Obama is doing that. He’s great at imploding.

Gator Joe

July 13th, 2010
12:57 pm

GF,
Sorry but I don’t know how to use spell check when posting. I forgot to mention, as long as there are people who think as you do, there will be people like who think as I do. I don’t have all the answers to the problems facing our country, but one thing is certain, neither do you. By the way, I served our country honorably for the better part of four years so that I, and you, may express our opinions. Please continue to do so, without insults of course.

Grand Forks

July 13th, 2010
1:02 pm

Gator Joe

That’s nice.

You wrote: without insults of course.

Now, I’ve noticed on Bookman and Tucker’s blogs you use words like “tea baggers” and “repukes.”

Is that the kind of insults you’re talking about? Of course not.

Grand Forks

July 13th, 2010
1:03 pm

Gator Joe

From Bookman’s newest blog: I believe the appropriate words for many, and perhaps most, of the Tea Party would be “bigoted” and “intolerant.”

So, when you mean insult, I’m guessing you only mean right wingers and not left wingers, right?

Jefferson

July 13th, 2010
1:04 pm

Again, Is there a sound any sweeter as the bitter tone of the neocons ?

Kyle Wingfield

July 13th, 2010
1:04 pm

GF: I took down the original comment that was unrelated to this topic, so I took down your responses as well.

Gman: There are plenty of other posts on this blog and other ajc.com blogs about the governor’s race, and you’re welcome to talk about the candidates there.

Grand Forks

July 13th, 2010
1:05 pm

From Yahoo news:

Majority of Americans lack faith in Obama: poll

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Nearly 60 percent of American voters say they lack faith in President Barack Obama, according to a public opinion poll published on Tuesday.

The results of the Washington Post/ABC News poll are a reversal of what voters said at the start of Obama’s presidency 18 months ago when about 60 percent expressed confidence in his decision making.

Grand Forks

July 13th, 2010
1:06 pm

“GF: I took down the original comment that was unrelated to this topic, so I took down your responses as well.”

Ok.

Ed

July 13th, 2010
1:07 pm

The Bush budgets don’t include the two wars. The were off budget until Obama came into office.

Saladdin

July 13th, 2010
1:10 pm

The non-sequitur in this is that the 2 wars weren’t part of Bush’s budgets, but are part of Obama’s. If you were to include the “emergency funding” for the war, the deficits would be much, much higher.

Trudy

July 13th, 2010
1:11 pm

Bush Belongs Behind Bars.

WAR TORTURE WAR TORTURE WAR TORTURE WAR TORTURE

Grand Forks

July 13th, 2010
1:15 pm

“Bush Belongs Behind Bars.”

Well Trudy, go make a citizens arrest. While you’re at it, arrest Obama since he’s continuing both wars AND has yet to close Gitmo.

Peter Haskett

July 13th, 2010
1:16 pm

The big question I have is where was right-wing outrage when Reagan, Bush 1, & Bush 2 ran up record deficits? Reagan and Bush 1 promised a balanced budget amendment. Since it never came to pass those 2 were failures, if you apply Republican logic.

JP

July 13th, 2010
1:19 pm

So what do the numbers look like for W if the wars are included? (assuming they are not)

As a Democrat, I’ll admit the spending makes me very nervous, and I think folks have a right to be nervous. However, we have tried it both ways (tax cuts for W, stimulus for O) and we had deficits under both guys. Giving more money back to the people makes sense if We (captial W) could agree on where to cut. But nobody wants to. (I say cut across the board – but is that right, and fair?) So our politicians (Rs and Ds) don’t cut anything, and keep spending. If the Rs take back the House, let’s see if they will propose spending cuts – they sure didn’t when they had the House 2000-2006

JF McNamara

July 13th, 2010
1:19 pm

I’m shaking my head right now…If you put up a chart and explain it to people its like their brain turns off.

Bush jumped from -1.3 to 3.5 and that’s a swing of 4.8 percentage points. Regardless of the historical average, the deficit still grew at a fast rate. If he had taken over with a budget near the average and held it there, then the writer would have a point. I’m guessing that swing from -1.3 to 2.5 is pretty big in a historical context.

From 2004 – 2007, the economy was really good and productive, so the deficit fell AS A PERCENTAGE, but not necessarily in whole dollar amounts. It doesn’t mean that he was any more responsible, its just that the great economy was masking the results.

2009 was an anomaly, for Bush, but you can’t call that an anomaly and not call 2009-2011 anomalies for Obama since its still the same problem working its way through they systems.

The Obama numbers are all projected. He could get lucky, like Bush did, and have the economy really pick up steam. In that case, his deficits will fall AS A PERCENTAGE. You can’t honestly compare the actual to the projected because we don’t know the real future.

Finally, if you take out the first and last years of Bush and the first two years of Obama which are the start points for both minus on anomaly year, then Bush took the deficit from -1.3 to 2.68 whereas Obama will take the budget from 2.68 to 5.32.

Bush has a bigger Percentage and Actual increase in deficit as percentage of federal budget. Even if I throw in the 10.3% which is clearly an anomaly for Obama, and view Bush in the best possible light, he will take the budget from 2.68 to 5.77 which is still LESS than bush on actual and percentage increase.

Realityhurts

July 13th, 2010
1:21 pm

Obama asks for more time. I agree that 25 years…..behind bars……would help us all out.

About the only positive thing to come out of the “Cash for Clunkers” program is that it got 95% of the Pro-Obama bumper stickers off the road.

Grand Forks

July 13th, 2010
1:25 pm

Off topic

VIVA LA FRANCE!!!!!

France BURQA BAN: French Parliament Approves Ban On Face Veils

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/13/france-burqa-ban-french-p_n_644433.html