I can’t stop thinking about Bush

Alas, for most of you who clicked this post based on the subject line, disappointment will be your friend. This post is political. (The subtle hint was the capital B in Bush.)

A website that is full of hot air tried to convince me recently that Obama is the undisputed king of debt or something to that effect.

So I did a little experiment.

My goal: Show the effect of presidency of George W. Bush on the current status of the national debt. Or we could also call it a battle of “King” vs. “Decider.”

Step 1

Google the phrase: What is the national debt?

This took me to Wikipedia which said, “As of September 9, 2011, the gross debt was $14.71 trillion, of which $10.07 trillion was held by the public and $4.64 trillion was intragovernmental holdings.”

Step 2

Google the phrase: What is the cost of the wars in afghanistan and iraq?

One page (PRI) came up with an estimate of $4 trillion. This estimate is about four times the estimate provided by Obama, because “he’s just citing the figure for the special off-budget war appropriations for the last 10 years.”

Pac-Man Returns: Wide-Mouth Edition


I made a little graph of the results. Hey, look! Pac-Man returns for a sequel! It’s not an exact 80-20, but close enough. It seems that Bush wanted more than his 20 percent. So I call this the wide-mouth version of Pac-Man.

A couple of housekeeping details about my decidedly simplistic graph.

First, I’m putting the cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq squarely on the shoulders of Bush. This isn’t totally fair, even though he was the self-described and world famous Decider. It has to be acknowledged, though, that three more years of the wars have continued under Obama and he hasn’t done enough to bring them to and end.

Second, this tinker toy of a graph only credits Bush with with a share of the debt equal to the costs of the wars (estimated). I’m making the assumption that those costs increased the debt that amount. After all, unlike World Wars I and II, where we sacrificed deeply, we didn’t pay for these new wars out of our pockets. We put them on credit. We didn’t want something like wars impacting our lifestyles. Well, buying things on credit doesn’t come cheap. I heard somewhere that just the interest to fund these wars will turn out to be at least one trillion dollars.

By the end of the Bush administration, the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, plus the cumulative interest on the increased borrowing used to fund them, will have added about $1 trillion to the national debt.

Source: The Washington Post

Clearly the interest for putting the wars on credit is not cheap.

On the other hand, the pie slice attributes absolutely nothing else to Bush, and we all know he did other things to raise the national debt.

Therefore, I personally think the graph is an excellent representation of the effects of a single human being (namely George W. Bush) on the national debt.

That’s my case against Obama being known as the “undisputed king of debt.” Yes, like Hot Air points out, we’re still comparing eight years of Bush against three years of Obama. That is true and, at the end of Obama’s presidency, the graph might look a lot different.

I will close out this post by admitting this: I originally thought the graph would end up looking more 50-50 and less like Pac-Man. That is what my gut told me but my research didn’t bear that hypothesis out. Still, I think that is one whopping big pie slice for a single man. That is my main point here.

When we get into macroeconomics there are often many difficult, confusing and conflicting ways to look at things and break the numbers down. No doubt a lot of people will rip my reasoning to shreds here. Have at it. Got differing opinions? I’d love to hear them. I’m not doubt wrong about a lot of the nitty gritty details and my assumptions and my limited understanding of things so macro. Feel free to correct me all you want. 🙂

4 responses

  1. You’ve chosen some delicious-looking colors for your pie chart.

    I found this set of charts about the economy, showing where the U.S. was in January 2009 and where we are now. We are in bad, bad shape, and there’s nothing good in sight if we continue on this ruinous path. The Obama Presidency By the Numbers:


    1. Thanks for the link. That was interesting stuff. I can’t help wondering, though, how many of those facts are a direct result of Obama presidency. Like the decline in median home value. Perhaps things like the rampant greed of the repugnant banking and mortgage industries had a little something to do with it? Who is to blame? Industry? Obama? Bush inertia?

      My graph tries to pin things down that a “Decider” could be directly responsible for. Things like the longest war in American history.

      My graph doesn’t address the two tax cuts by Bush, either. That’s another estimated $1.3 trillion that could have made his slice in the deliciously-colored chart even bigger than shown.


  2. I actually blame Cheney, but I suppose that’s not the issue.


    1. I understand that feeling. Especially with his book out and him spouting his opinions about this, that and the other thing.


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