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United States National Debt by Presidential Term, Per Capita

Updated on November 13, 2010

Many honest and dishonest allegations are flying in the faces of the average taxpayer this time of year. But this year especially, the facts in television ads leave more questions than answers. I was taught to always seek out the facts to clarify a murky situation. Also , to follow the money , in politics, the money always has a way of making murky issues crystal clear. I decided to study the National Debt ; how and under whom this mountain of debt started to grow. I have created a simple chart with the results . I have listed the site this information was obtained from.

United States National Debt by Presidential Term, Per Capita

President                % of growth                years                dates of term

Carter                        36.6%                    (4yrs.)                 '77 to '80

Reagan                    168.0%                    (8yrs.)                 '81 to '88

Bush, H.                     49.2%                    (4yrs.)                 '89 to '92

Clinton                       22.5%                    (8yrs.)                  '93 to '00

Bush W.                     75.2%                    (8yrs.)                  '01 to '08

Road and traffic by alvimann
Road and traffic by alvimann | Source

Our economy was the healthiest, in 1980, our National Debt was the lowest it had ever been in 50 years. Of course our lives weren't perfect, there were long gas lines and Iran was holding the U.S. hostage as well as our citizen's hostage because of a failed rescue attempt by the sitting President. We were very angry as a country. The electorate responded by putting in the opposite party's candidate.

U.S. Mass.17
U.S. Mass.17 | Source
Russia - border patrol
Russia - border patrol | Source

But look at the debt, what is the chart telling us? Yes, Reagan rebuilt the Navy and reestablished our presence as a world power to be dealt with. Communism fell; but some say it just fell before we did. We got lucky.

Tree ATM by earl 53
Tree ATM by earl 53 | Source
Dollar bills
Dollar bills | Source

The elder Bush seemed to try to hold down the debt but didn't succeed as well as Carter! Look at the numbers. Where did the money go? I remember quite a few SNL and banks that went under during this time. Also, most IRA accounts took losses greater than 50%. What for?


Next, are the Clinton years, he balanced the budget twice. But was involved in so many personal scandals, some say his behavior tainted the presidency. But look at the National Debt. He cut the growth lower than 50 % from Bush , H. Then along came George W. Bush with a 75.2% growth in the National Debt. During his first term, he gave back a trillion dollars because this would help grow the economy. What happened? What did we get for this massive tax cut? Are we better off as a nation because of it or are we a National under Debt?

Here perhaps, is the first common sense explanation I have heard to why Obama has had to spend money on the Economic Stimulus. Your family should spend less when times are bad and more when times are good. To counterbalance that , the government had better spend more when times are bad ( create jobs ) and less when times are good.

If you honestly take the time to study the charts about the National Debt you will learn that Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, LBJ, Nixon, Ford , Carter and Clinton all reduced the National Debt. If it couldn't be done then how did these men do it? Instead of getting emotional and listening to attack and hate campaigns, let's all step back and do a little research and seek solutions to the problems that now fester like giant abscesses.

"Figures don't lie, but liers figure."

Sites used:

google " national debt, bush"


"Unjust spoils," by Robert Reich (www.thenation. com ):

Wall Street's banditry was (only) the proximate cause of the Great Recession; its structural reason... is America's surging inequality. ...

Each of America's two biggest economic crashes occurred in the year immediately following twin peaks ( of surging inequality) - in 1929 and 2008. This is no mere coincidence. When most of the gains from economic growth go to a small sliver of Americans at the top, the rest don't have enough purchasing power to buy what the economy is capable of producing. American's median wage, adjusted for inflation, has barely budged for decades. Between 2000 and 2007 it actually dropped. Under these circumstances the only way the middle class can boost its purchasing power is to borrow, as it did with gusto. As housing prices rose, Americans turned their homes into ATM's. But such borrowing has its limits. When the debt bubble finally burst, vast numbers of people couldn't pay their bills, and banks couldn't collect. ...

The problem isn't that typical Americans have spent beyond their means. It's that their means haven't kept up with what the growing economy could and should have been able to provide them.

This is just another opinion to consider when debating why the Great Recession occurred in the first place.  It is worthy to ponder.


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  • fetty profile image

    fetty 6 years ago from South Jersey

    Now that Murdock has blown it in England, maybe some Americans will wake up an smell the coffee; but I doubt it. Look at the Casey Anthony trial. WOW! Thanks for reading and I will find your site as well!

  • Lame stream media profile image

    Lame stream media 6 years ago from Sarasota Florida

    great posts everyone

    I like the fact that you have put facts on your site keep up the good work. I have been saying it was not exclusively our current presidents debt but I keep getting bashed on the other sites so I built my own with the hopes of bringing down the Murdoch propaganda machine. wish me luck

  • fetty profile image

    fetty 7 years ago from South Jersey

    Doc Snow thanks for reading my hub. I do not come close to doing the amount of research that you do on some of your hubs but I am pleased to see your comment. I will try to emulate your work ethic. Nice to be able to read the essays that you write esp. on Global Warming.

  • Doc Snow profile image

    Doc Snow 7 years ago from Camden, South Carolina

    Thanks, Fetty.

    Sometimes the finger ends up pointing at the mirror, doesn't it?


  • fetty profile image

    fetty 7 years ago from South Jersey

    Louis, thanks for stopping by. I am amazed how people just don't "get" the facts sometimes.

  • profile image

    Louis Mascolo 7 years ago

    Good breakdown. You can't argue with facts. I mean you can, but then you'd be a Republican. :-)

  • fetty profile image

    fetty 7 years ago from South Jersey

    American_Choices - Thanks for stopping back. It is my general understanding that during Reagan's Admin. our Navy was obsolete and generally falling apart. He spent a lot of money rebuilding the fleet; he has a nuclear ship named after him. I will look for said chart. I will always admire Pres. Reagan; I just don't believe he was our best modern president. War is such a human and economic waste. Recently, Trump asked the question, "To the victor goes the spoils". Why can't we US recoup our costs in Iraq and Afganistan , as well as Libya, by either taking oil or monetary assets of these countries? Is their some modern law forbidding this? England and Rome lived by that mantra.

  • American_Choices profile image

    American_Choices 7 years ago from USA


    You are right - I should explain myself in regards to Reagan. During the time of Reagan debt did rise as you so correctly pointed out - however, look at the reaction in the marketplace - overall - check out:

    You are absolutely correct - there is allot of garbage out on the web.

    The question is where did the debt go? War is not productive.

    Would enjoy seeing a graph of the expenditures based upon the war chest - wonder if Reagan had the lowest military spending? Which President do you think would win?

  • fetty profile image

    fetty 7 years ago from South Jersey

    American Choices thank you for reading my hub. I don't understand your Reagan comment, though. He contributed the greatest to our national debt. I will check out this site. Thanks for the information. A lot of garbage is out there on the web.

  • American_Choices profile image

    American_Choices 7 years ago from USA


    Excellent article detailing our national debt. No wonder I loved Reagon - wow!

    You might find a website of interest. It is managed by a brilliant lady I had the privilege of meeting many years ago. She started this highlighting of what can we afford.

  • fetty profile image

    fetty 7 years ago from South Jersey

    Judicastro- Please explain "what is being done in this administration is unconstitutional". Bush gave back a trillion dollars telling all that the rich would then take this money and create jobs ; that never happened. Our medical premiums are so high millions of people can't afford to carry insurance. Meanwhile, insurance companies and their CEO's are making record profits with paid bonuses , pensions and salaries. Our banks went unregulated and gave out loans that weren't worth the paper they were written on. The poor and the middle class lost their jobs , their homes and their self-respect. The banks got huge bailouts and are currently wading in foreclosed homes up to their eyeballs. You better believe the bank executives created all these situations to increase their bottom line. Corporate greed fueled by deregulation created a runaway train that is almost impossible to stop quickly.

    I am sorry that you find jobs for people who merely want to hang around to collect unemployment. I have two in my family that have always done that, too. I never could understand how anyone could sit at home and enjoy that . The money isn't there. I could go on but when you use unconstitutional that is a strong allegation. The rich in this country are out of control and the American jobs that fed the middle class are now in foreign countries ex. China; because of cheap labor and because our government paid these corporations to do this. Hopefully, the technology age will kick in an American 's will be working via the internet. But I have read that 80% of the internet use is by Americans! Some new jobs that have been created by the use of this technology are medical records that have to be transcribed from paper to CD's. ( Obama gave $50K to doctors to start doing this). And of course the thousands of jobs that will be created by the millions of people getting medical care.

    Thank you for caring and I hope we are both thinking more about these issues because of your caring. Warmest wishes.

    Also, I am not asking for the rich to be robbed BUT to pay their fair share in taxes to the American people. There are billionaires that don't pay a dime in taxes and most tax laws were written to protect the rich in this country. Their are several drug companies with off shore banks that profit hugely in America and then take the money and deposit it in the Cayman Islands, for example.

  • Judicastro profile image

    Judicastro 7 years ago from birmingham, Alabama

    Regarding the 2-5% of the money. I do not want to have a robin hood society, where we rob from the rich and give to the poor. I deal with people everyday who say they are looking for work, I put them to work and they only last until they can quit and collect unemployment. I do not think we should penelize those who have worked hard and stuck with it. Soros is one of the wealthiest men in our country, a democrat, hates America. If you haven't read about him you should. Do you see him giving his money to the poor? I dont think so. I love what bill gates and his wife are doing. America was built on hard work and people who believed in the American dream where you are compensated for the work you do. We have unfortunately created a generation who now cry because the distribution of wealth is unfair. How so? I grew up with you don't work you don't eat. Now we have those (not everybody mind you) that want to live off the backs of others hard work. That I have a problem with. Now if you think that my husband and I are living in the lap of luxury quite to the contrary. He has been unemployed for two years. No we don't have anything to fall back on. We do the best we can and still believe that if you hit it every day the best you can it will break.

  • Judicastro profile image

    Judicastro 7 years ago from birmingham, Alabama

    I'm happy fetty that you still believe in this president. Attaclks come from all sides of the isle. When bush was in the attacks were relentless. I am a conservative but not loyal to either party. I look at their voting record, at their values and at their actions. What is being done in this administration is unconstitutional fetty. Unfortunately too many people today go with what they are being told and not what the truth is.

  • fetty profile image

    fetty 7 years ago from South Jersey

    f_hruz - I agree with you about the military spending and most of the spending. It has to stop and jobs are not being created fast enough. Japan and China could very well come in and take over the real estate do to the debt owed to them by US. But some of the spending was necessary to stop the second Great Depression not recession that we are currently in. Thank you for stopping by.

    Judicastro - Thank you for taking the time to stop by. The Republicans have blocked 80% of the legislation and good deeds that the Obama stimulus was supposed to create. This party will sink our country to pay this man back for becoming the president. Recently a billionaire , said for OB to do nothing, nothing at all. And maybe the big money will start to be spent on economic stimulus because they donot trust him. Under the past republican years, 95% of the money in this country is in 2 to 5% of the hands of the population!! Does that sound like a democracy to you. I am amazed at the people who don't get this! I wish you luck in your new job. We are also in a transitional period changing from the industrial revolution period to the digital revolution or evolution period. People need new technical skills to perform their past jobs, now. Old manufacturing jobs have been shipped out to foreign countries and the corporations have used our tax dollars to move these jobs overseas. ( None of this is new and none of this was done on OB's watch. ) But he is blamed for everything.

  • Judicastro profile image

    Judicastro 7 years ago from birmingham, Alabama

    I understand what you are saying Fetty and I see your research. I work in an industry where I am supposed to put people to work, but unfortunately instead of more jobs and by the amount of money Obama has spent there should be tons of jobs there are less. My question is what has all that money been used for and where are these "shovel ready projects" that he promised during his campaign. Great hub and I appreciate your work.

  • f_hruz profile image

    f_hruz 7 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

    No other nation in the world is even close to the huge amount of dept the US has. Spending the amount the US does on the military is absolut insanity. A perfect prescription for the creditors to come and have their say what to do with the real estate once the productive capacity of the nation is gone to pay the bills and the value of the buck is wiped out!


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