The U.S. Treasury Department divides the federal debt into two categories. One is “debt held by the public,” which includes U.S. government securities owned by individuals, corporations, state or local governments, foreign governments and other entities outside the federal government itself. The other is “intragovernmental” debt, which includes I.O.U.s the federal government gives to itself when, for example, the Treasury borrows money out of the Social Security “trust fund” to pay for expenses other than Social Security.
At the end of fiscal year 1989, which ended eight months after President Reagan left office, the total federal debt held by the public was $2.1907 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That means all U.S. presidents from George Washington through Ronald Reagan had accumulated only that much publicly held debt on behalf of American taxpayers. That is $335.3 billion less than the $2.5260 trillion that was added to the federal debt held by the public just between Jan. 20, 2009, when President Obama was inaugurated, and Aug. 20, 2010, the 19-month anniversary of Obama's inauguration.
By contrast, President Reagan was sworn into office on Jan. 20, 1981 and left office eight years later on Jan. 20, 1989. At the end of fiscal 1980, four months before Reagan was inaugurated, the federal debt held by the public was $711.9 billion, according to CBO. At the end of fiscal 1989, eight months after Reagan left office, the federal debt held by the public was $2.1907 trillion. That means that in the nine-fiscal-year period of 1980-89--which included all of Reagan’s eight years in office--the federal debt held by the public increased $1.4788 trillion. That is in excess of a trillion dollars less than the $2.5260 increase in the debt held by the public during Obama’s first 19 months.
When President Barack Obama took the oath of office on Jan. 20, 2009, the total federal debt held by the public stood at 6.3073 trillion, according to the Bureau of the Public Debt, a division of the U.S. Treasury Department. As of Aug. 20, 2010, after the first nineteen months of President Obama’s 48-month term, the total federal debt held by the public had grown to a total of $8.8333 trillion, an increase of $2.5260 trillion.
In just the last four months (May through August), according to the CBO, the Obama administration has run cumulative deficits of $464 billion, more than the $458 billion deficit the Bush administration ran through the entirety of fiscal 2008.
The CBO predicted this week that the annual budget deficit for fiscal 2010, which ends on the last day of this month, will exceed $1.3 trillion.
The first two fiscal years in which Obama has served will see the two biggest federal deficits as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product since the end of World War II.
“CBO currently estimates that the deficit for 2010 will be about $70 billion below last year’s total but will still exceed $1.3 trillion,” said the CBO’s monthly budget review for September, which was released yesterday. “Relative to the size of the economy, this year’s deficit is expected to be the second-largest shortfall in the past 65 years: At 9.1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), that deficit will be exceeded only by last year’s deficit of 9.9 percent of GDP.”