Where Did the National Debt Come From?

It’s maddening to hear people talk as though President Obama ran up the entire national debt on his own. What’s even more maddening is the fact that the years Obama has been in office are marked by relatively slow spending, in terms of deficit growth. I say the years Obama has been in office because I really don’t think there’s a whole lot any president can do about economy, and about spending. A president can suggest policy changes, and ask for things, but nearly everything that pertains to the economy and economic recovery, and laws about how much revenue the government take in are more about what Congress ends up doing. So the whole debate over the national debt and the deficit is doubly maddening. (For more information about the difference between the deficit and the public debt, read this great article from How Stuff Works.)

Anyway, the national debt is the cumulative effect of years of deficit spending. We didn’t get to this point by magic, and it certainly didn’t just happen under Obama’s watch. Here is an interesting graph from zFacts that illustrates where the debt came from as of 2012. (Hint: Some of the debt is a direct result of accumulating interest on debts run up during the Reagan Administration. Read the whole article from the link above to see how it works.)

Reagan-Bush-National-Debt

2 Responses to Where Did the National Debt Come From?

  1. Really informative, Miranda! I know the national debt is something I’ve never fully understood; although it always seemed silly to me for someone to blame the ‘current’ president for things that had to come about before his term in office.

    • What I love even more is that we credit “the president” with economic boom or bust, when it’s really Congress that has to make and pass the laws that have the most impact on the economic situation.

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