National Debt through the Years: Republican Recessions and Expensive Recoveries- 2-13-2023 Richard J. Garfunkel

The National Debt on September 30, 2017, the end of the fiscal year was $20.4 trillion. On September 30, 2021 the National Debt was $30 trillion. Obama added $6.9 trillion to the Debt in eight years following the Great Recession, the worst economic period we endured since the Great Depression.

In four years, from the end of the Fiscal Year in 2017 until September 30, 2021 the Debt increased $9.6 trillion in just four years. As of today, two weeks short of the Fiscal Year, the National Debt is at $30.9 trillion.

If once counts the increase in Debt from January 20, 2017 to January 20, 2021, the numbers increased from $19.9 trillion to $27.8 trillion, or $7.9 trillion.

Donald Trump: Added $7.5 billion, a 37.5% increase from $20.24 trillion at the end of Trump’s last budget FY, 2021

Barack Obama: Added $8.588 trillion, a 74-percent increase from the $11.657 trillion debt at the end of Bush’s last budget, FY 2009. (note FY 2009 added)

  • attributed to the recovery from the Great recession.

George W. Bush: Added $5.849 trillion, a 101-percent increase from the $5.8 trillion debt at the end of Clinton’s last budget, FY 2001.

Bill Clinton: Added $1.396 trillion, a 32-percent increase from the $4.4 trillion debt at the end of George H.W. Bush’s last budget, FY 1993.

George H.W. Bush: Added $1.554 trillion, a 54-percent increase from the $2.857 trillion debt at the end of Reagan’s last budget, FY 1989.

Ronald Reagan: Added $1.86 trillion, a 186-percent increase from the $998 billion debt at the end of Carter’s last budget, FY 1981.

  • Outside of the COVID-19 Relief Bills passed, Trump increased spending on agriculture more than any other area, jumping 194% between 2017 and 2019, from $14.2b to $41.7b
  • Of the $1 trillion federal budget in 2020, $893 billions a deficit and half of that will be owed to China
  • Trump cut corporate tax rates from 35% in 2017 to 21%in 2018
  • The highest federal Income tax rate was reduced from 39.6% to 37%at the start of 2018

Who is Responsible for the National Debt? The Republicans Mostly!

Civil War which raised the Debt over 478% in 1862, WWI which increased it 155% in 1918, and WWII which also raised it 88% in 1943. Of course these were considered national emergencies and quite necessary and spending increased because of Korea, Vietnam and the two Gulf Wars.

The years after WWI saw national spending shrink in the first 11 years of Republican Administrations, as Harding-Coolidge and Hoover starved the government and the deficit shrunk from $24 billion to $16 billion. But that public policy created the conditions of “supply-side” economics and led to the Great Depression. Hoover tried spending in 1932 as he raised the National Debt over $ 3 billion, but it was too little and too late. The economic disaster of the Depression was well on the way until FDR and the New Deal.

Even in the heart of the New Deal, where recovery was critical, the Debt only increased 20% in 1934. In fact the spending of the whole New Deal was estimated at $60 billion, which was a lot of money in those days. In fact, the total National Debt went from 1933 through 1938 from $22 billion to $37 billion. Taxes on the American public, especially the rich, funded most of the cost of the recovery from, PWA, WPA, CCC, and AAA. But if you look at what was built in the New Deal, the cost was worth it; regarding roads, airports, schools, bridges, dams and an unprecedented amount of public works, which transformed America from mostly a rural society to the modern industrial colossus it became today.

During WWII the Debt went from $48 to $269 billion (1941 through 1946), but the actual cost of the war which was over $350 billion, almost 95% of our GNP, was paid by taxes, high taxes. After 1947 the Debt grew quite slowly through Truman and Eisenhower from $269 to $286 billion. Unfortunately the last five years of the Eisenhower Administration were economically stagnant, and the Recession of 1957-8 was devastating. Kennedy was forced to cut taxes and “prime the pump” of the economy. But, even with the tax cuts, increased spending and the Vietnam War in the middle and late 60’s, spending went up gradually from 1961 through 1968 and the National Debt grew from $288 to $347 billion, and average of less than 1.5% each year, until 1968 when it leaped 6.5%.

Huge increases followed in the eight years of Nixon-Ford as the deficits ballooned from $353 to $620 billion as the Vietnam War and domestic needs increased. So in eight years the National Debt almost doubled. Even in the first two FDR administrations, and the New Deal, the National Debt had not doubled.

Where did the real spending come from, another war, the one in SE Asia. By the time Carter was president debt continued to climb during those difficult years after Vietnam and the oil embargoes, two in 1973 and 1974 and one in 1979, (under Nixon and Carter) which created a great deal of inflation as gasoline went from around 37 cents to way over $1 per gallon. National Debt climbed in the Carter four years from $698 billion to close to a $1 trillion in 1981.

Did Reagan solve the Debt problem? For sure not! He cut taxes, raised interest rates to squeeze out the inflation caused by the 1979 oil embargo and the Debt, along with the second era of “supply-aside” spending, directed by David Stockman, based on the theories of Arthur Laffer ( the Laffer Curve) raised the Debt dramatically. Never in peace time have we seen such spending. The National Debt went up from $1 trillion to $4 trillion in the 12 years of Reagan-Bush, with huge increase every year. In fact unemployment, which had been 7.5% during the four years of Jimmy Carter, ballooned to over 10.5% in Reagan’s for 2 years, and by the time Clinton was inaugurated, 12 years later, it was at 7.3%. One could say that economically, that was a high price paid for an economy that basically stayed the same. During the first 8 years of Reagan, jobs, mostly connected to defense spending (600 ship navy and Star Wars) increased by 16 million. In the next four years under Bush 41, that total would shrink to 2.5 million created.

During the Clinton Years, the Debt increased from over $4 trillion to $5.6 trillion and increase of less than 40% in eight years, where in the previous 12 years it had gone up over 400%. In the last year the Debt only increased .03% the lowest since 1957, right before the massive Recession of 1957 in the 2nd Eisenhower Term. Aside from raising the Debt the smallest amount in decades, on a percentage wise basis, over 23 million jobs were created, a total higher than 50% of all of the jobs created in the GOP Administrations from Hoover through Bush 43, except Reagan.

In the years of Bush 43, the flat debt, with large surpluses he inherited from Clinton were soon spent with tax cuts, wars and the unfunded Part D, Medicare Drug benefit. Debt doubled again from $5.8 trillion to almost $12 trillion in 2009 as the Great Recession took hold and unemployment skyrocket to over 10% in June of 2009. Over 8 million jobs were lost from the last six months of Bush 43 into the first five months of the Obama Administration. But, jobs were clawed back as the deficit continued to grow, as the recovery and the long and expensive war in Iraq had to be ended. Again there is nothing like wars to create deficits: the Civil War, the World Wars, Korea, Vietnam and the Middle East. Both Middle East wars affected both Bushes. During the Obama Years the debt went from $12 billion to over $19 billion. In fact, the percentage increase, during his 8 years, regarding the Great Recession, was only 60%, In the 8 years of Bush 43, it was almost 100%.

So now, before we were in the next era of massive spending without a war or a Recession, Trump promised to eliminate the National Debt of $19 trillion in eight years, the Debt had already climbed to over $4 trillion and over $23 trillion.

Thus, before the catastrophic contraction of the economy in April of 2020, from January 20, 2017, to November 1, 2019, Trump piled $3.1 trillion onto the debt, amounting to a 16% increase. That’s significantly less than the $4.3 trillion President Barack Obama added from January 2009 to November 1, 2011, but far more than the $1.1 trillion Bush added in a similar period and the $794 billion Clinton did in 1,016 days as president.

There is a key distinction separating the circumstances behind Trump and Obama’s debt figures. Trump inherited an economy undergoing its longest sustained expansion. Obama, on the other hand, entered the White House as the nation veered into a recession that sparked massive stimulus spending and a bailout of the auto industry.

Let’s talk about the numbers!

The National Debt the last Fiscal year of President Bill Clinton was $5.8 trillion. In between now and then the National debt has grown to $26.2 trillion as of today and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicts it will be $28.9 trillion on September 30, 2023. Since Clinton took office we have had the Great Recession, 2008-2009 under Bush 43 and the Greater Trump Recession. The Trump Reign of Error has accounted for 25% of the whole National Debt of the United States.

Fiscal year ended September 30th:

9-30-2001      $5.8 trillion

9-30-2009    $11.9 trillion  (Great Recession)

9-30-2017    $20.2 trillion  (Obama, fiscal year)

6-20-2020    $26.2 trillion

9-30-2023    $28.9 trillion (Trump Recession fiscal year)


This entry was posted in Uncategorized by admin. Bookmark the permalink.

About admin

A lifelong New Yorker, who now lives full-time in Palm Beach County, Richard was raised in Mount Vernon, New York and he was educated in the Mount Vernon public schools He graduated from Boston University with a BA in American History. After spending a year on Wall Street as a research analyst with Bache & Co., he joined a manufacturing and importing firm, where over the next twenty-five years he rose to the position of chief operating officer. After the sale of that business, Richard entered into the financial services field with Metropolitan Life and is a Registered Representative, who has been associated with Acorn Financial Services which is affiliated with John Hancock Life Insurance Company of Boston, Ma. Today, he is a retired broker who had specialized in long-term care insurance and financial planning. One of Richard’s recent activities was to advise and encourage communities to seek ways to incorporate “sustainability and resiliency” into their future infrastructure planning. After a lifetime in politics, with many years working as a district leader, which involved party organizational work, campaign chair activity and numerous other political tasks, Richard has been involved with numerous civic and social causes. In recent years, Richard served in 2005 as the campaign coordinator of the Re-Elect Paul Feiner Campaign in Greenburgh, NY and he again chaired Supervisor Feiner’s successful landslide victory in 2007. Over the next few years, he advised a number of political candidates. He has served as an appointed Deputy Supervisor of the Town of Greenburgh, with responsibilities regarding the town’s “liaison program.” He was a member of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board of the Town of Greenburgh, NY. Richard has lectured on FDR, The New Deal and 20th century American history in the Mount Vernon schools, at the Westchester Council of Social Studies annual conference in White Plains, and at many senior citizen groups, which include appearances at the Old Guard of White Plains, the Rotary Clubs of Elmsford and White Plains, and various synagogue groups around Westchester. In the winter of 2006 Richard was the leader of the VOCAL forum, sponsored by the Westchester County Office of Aging, which addresses the concerns of Westchester County’s Intergenerational Advocacy Educational Speak-out forums for senior citizens. Richard has given lectures for the Active Retirement Project, which is co-sponsored by the Jewish Community Center on the Hudson, the Greenburgh Hebrew Center, and other groups around Westchester County. Richard also is the founder and Chairperson of the Jon Breen Memorial Fund, that judges and grants annual prizes to students at Mount Vernon High School who submit essays on public policy themes. He also sponsors the Henry M. Littlefield History Prize for the leading MVHS history student. Richard serves on the Student College Scholarship Committee of Mount Vernon High School. In past years Richard chaired and moderated the Jon Breen Fund Award’s cablecast program with the Mayor and local and school officials. Richard has been a member of Blythedale Children’s Hospital’s Planned Giving Professional Advisory Board, and was a founding member of the committee to re-new the FDR Birthday Balls of the 1930’s and 1940’s with the March of Dimes’ effort to eliminate birth defects. Their renewal dinner was held at Hyde Park on January 30, 2003. Richard is currently an active contributor to the Roosevelt Institute, which is involved in many pursuits which included the opening of the Henry A. Wallace Center at Hyde Park, and the Eleanor Roosevelt – Val-Kill Foundation. In 2007, he proposed to the City of Mount Vernon an effort to develop an arts, educational, and cultural center as part of a downtown re-development effort. Richard was a team partner with the Infrastructure & Energy Solutions Group. IEFG which has developed innovative strategies for the 21st Century. Richard hosted a weekly program on WVOX-1460 AM radio, called “The Advocates,” which was concerned with “public policy” issues. The show, which was aired from 2007 until May 15, 2013, has had amongst its guests; Representative Charles Rangel, Chairperson of the House Ways and Means Committee, Mr. Jonathan Alter of Newsweek, along with hundreds of others. All the 300 shows are archived at Richard currently gives lectures on Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, FDR and the Jewish Community, The New Deal, FDR and Douglas MacArthur, 20th Century American Foreign Policy Resulting in Conflict, and Israel’s Right to Exist. Richard lives in Boynton Beach, Fl, with his wife Linda of 44 years. They have two married children. Their daughter Dana is a Rutgers College graduate, with a MS from Boston University, and is the Assistant Director of Recruitment at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Their son Jon is an electrical engineering graduate of Princeton University and a senior software architect at NY/Mellon Bank in NYC. Richard J. Garfunkel Recent Appearances: KTI Synagogue, Rye Brook, NY- Long Term Care & Estate Conservation- Anshe Shalom Synagogue, New Rochelle, NY- Long Term Care- American Legion Post, Valhalla, NY- Long Term Care and Asset Protection- Doyle Senior Ctr, New Rochelle, NY-Long Term Care and Asset Protection- AME Methodist Ministers, New Rochelle, NY, LTC and Charitable Giving- Profession Women in Construction, Elmsford, NY, LTC and Business Benefits- Kol Ami Synagogue- White Plains, NY, Long Term Care and Disability - Beth El Men's Club-New Rochelle, NY-Long Term Care-Is it Necessary- Greater NY Dental Meeting Javits Ctr, NY, NY- LTC and Disability- IBEW Local #3 , White Plains, NY, Long Term Care and Asset Protection, Health Fair -Bethel Synagogue, New Rochelle, NY-LTC and Disability, Heath Fair- Riverdale Mens Club CSAIR- Riverdale, NY- LTC- Life Weight Watchers of Westchester and the Bronx-LTC and Tax Implications Sunrise Assisted Living of Fleetwood, Mount Vernon, NY-LTC Sprain Brook Manor of Scarsdale-LTC- November 15, 2001 Sunrise Assisted Living of Stamford, Connecticut, February 2002 Kol Ami Synagogue, White Plains, NY, February, 2002 The Old Guard Society of White Plains, NY, April, 2002 The Westchester Meadows, Valhalla, NY August, 2002 Kol Ami Synagogue, White Plains, NY, October, 2002 JCC of Scarsdale, Scarsdale, NY, November, 2002 The Westchester Meadows, Valhalla, NY, January, 2003 The Rotary Club of White Plains, NY January, 2003 The Westchester Meadows, Valhalla, NY April, 2003 Westchester Reform Temple, Scarsdale, NY January, 2004 Mount Vernon High School, Mount Vernon, NY March 2004 Kol Ami/JCC of White Plains, NY November, 2004 The Westchester Reform Temple, Scarsdale, January 2005 The Sunrise of Fleetwood, Mount Vernon, April, 2005 The Woodlands of Ardsley, assisted living, November, 2005 The Woodlands of Ardsley, assisted living, December, 2005 The Woodlands of Ardsley, assisted living, January, 2005 Rotary Club of Elmsford, April, 2006 Kiwanis Club of Yonkers, June, 2006 Greenburgh Jewish Center, November, 2006 Temple Kol Ami, White Plains, February, 2007 Hebrew Institute, White Plains, March, 2007 Temple Kol Ami, White Plains, NY, April, 2007 Westchester Meadows. Valhalla, November, 2007 Hebrew Institute. White Plains, November, 2007 Art Zuckerman Radio Show- January, 2008 JCC of the Hudson, Tarrytown, February, 2008 Matt O’Shaughnessy Radio Show, March, 2008 WVOX –Election Night Coverage, November, 2008 WVOX – Inaugural Coverage, January 20, 2009 The Advocates-host of the WVOX Radio Show, 2007- 2010 Rotary Club of Pleasantville, February, 2009 Hebrew Institute of White Plains, May, 2009 JCC Hudson, Tarrytown, December, 2009-10-11-12 Brandeis Club, Yonkers, March 25, 2010

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *