With the end of the fiscal year (“FY”) 2020 and estimates for FY 2021, the facts are clear. Republicans cannot claim they are concerned about the national debt. Republicans have incurred more debt than Democrats up to FY 2021. This fact could quickly change with the many massive spending proposals of the Biden administration. The calculations below are based on FY rather than annual spending, to calculate only debt attributable to the presidential budget responsible for it.
|President||Years||Republican*||Democrat*||Total Debt %inc|
|Hoover||1930-1933||$ 6 billion||$ 6 billion 33|
|F. Roosevelt||1934-1945||$ 236 billion||$ 242 billion 1048|
|H. Truman||1946-1953||$ 7 billion||$ 249 billion 2.8|
|D. Eisenhower||1954-1961||$ 23 billion||$ 272 billion 8.2|
|J. Kennedy||1962-1964||$ 23 billion||$ 295 billion 7.8|
|L.B. Johnson||1965-1969||$ 42 billion||$ 337 billion 13|
|R. Nixon||1970-1974||$ 121 billion||$ 458 billion 34|
|G. Ford||1975-1977||$ 224 billion||$ 682 billion 47|
|J. Carter||1978-1981||$ 299 billion||$ 981 billion 43|
|R. Reagan||1982-1989||$ 1.860 T||$ 2.841 T 186|
|G.H.W. Bush||1990-1993||$ 1.554 T||$ 4.395 T 54|
|W. J. Clinton||1994-2001||$ 1.396 T||$ 5.791 T 32|
|G.W. Bush||2002-2009||$ 5.849 T||$ 11.640 T 101|
|B. Obama||2010-2017||$ 8.588 T||$ 20.228 T 74|
2021 est. add’l debt
| $ 8.627 Test.
|$ 27.816 T 34|
|Party totals||$ 18.263 T||$ 12.519 T||$ 30.816 T|
*The FY deficit numbers for each President are based on the FY deficits stated by The Balance, update in March 2021. For FY 2021, the estimate is for Trump through January 20, 2021, and thereafter the estimate is attributed to Biden.
What do these calculations show?
81% of our entire national debt was incurred by the last four presidents, George W. Bush, Obama, Trump, and now Biden. Two Democrats, two Republicans.
Republicans are responsible for 60% of the national debt; Democrats 40%. President Biden is proposing multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure plans that would increase the national debt by another $ 2-3 trillion. Estimates have the national debt rising between now and 2050 from 102% of GDP to 195% of GDP. Interest on the debt is estimated to rise from below 2% today to 2.5% by 2030. On a minimum of $30 trillion in debt, annual interest payments could easily reach $750 billion, about one-half of FY 2020 discretionary spending. In FY 2021, each person’s share of the national debt is $85,049. The average household’s share of the national debt is $218,614.
All presidents have an excuse for their debt (Biden – the pandemic and need for more stimulus; Trump – pandemic and need to build-up the military; Obama – to address the financial crisis; Bush – 9/11, and on and on). The difficulty with excuses is that all presidents have them and none even try to address the growing national debt. Moreover, not one candidate for federal office in the 2020 elections even discussed the massive national debt.
Basic questions remain. Can the U.S. print money out of thin air and borrow at a near-zero interest rate forever? If not, what are the consequences if inflation or interest rates rise significantly? Is there anything concerned citizens can do to address what might be an existential threat to the nation? Should our government care about future generations? Why should politicians care about the debt and future generations since their sole goal is to be elected? Should citizens care? Perhaps the real answer will be found by re-asking Benjamin Franklin’s profound question – “When the people find that they can vote themselves money, will that herald the end of the republic.”
Part II of the article will explore the reasonableness of the current assumption that a nation, with its own currency, can print an unlimited amount of its currency without consequence?