“We’ve borrowed more money under Barack Obama than we borrowed from George Washington through George W. Bush,” said Donald Trump’s economic adviser Stephen Moore at a debate in mid-October. “This is the most fiscally reckless behavior.”
It’s a grand claim.
Trump has also made similar claims, saying that the debt has doubled under Obama’s eight years in office.
Here are the numbers:
By January 2009, the United States had accumulated $10.6 trillion in debt. That’s the net amount the country had borrowed from Washington through the Bush years.
The gross national debt now stands at almost $20 trillion. That’s an increase of $9.3 trillion — not quite a doubling, but close enough.
While the large increase in borrowing occurred ‘under Obama,’ it’s an overstatement to blame Obama’s actions as the sole cause of the ballooning debt, according to the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
The debt would have risen by $3 trillion because of tax and spending policies that were already in place. Plus, the Great Recession drove up spending on safety net programs, such as Medicaid and food stamps, without the president or Congress doing a thing.
This is not to say that Obama had zero impact on the debt during his two terms in office. His 2009 stimulus plan and his making most of the Bush tax cuts permanent in 2012 contributed to the debt. But the 2011 Budget Control Act, which curbed government spending, helped slow the projected growth in debt.
Also, keep in mind that Obama can’t take any financial steps without Congress’ approval. And Republicans controlled the House for six years of his term and the Senate for two years.