It;s a little more complicated than you have it made out to be, Rick.
In general, when you do this “attribution to President” thing, you attribute the 1st year of a President’s term to the prior president. This is because MOST of that year, the government is still running under the prior president’s budget. So, 2001 belongs to Clinton, 2009 belongs to Bush, 2017 belongs to Obama, etc. Most presidents do NOT make financial decisions that take effect prior to the January FOLLOWING their inaguration, after all.
HOWEVER, TO BE FAIR, you have to do even more work. It’s not fair to attribute, for example, spending to Bush that Obama made the decision on. So, if you take the deficit in 2009, which was 1.4T, you have to kind of finesse it to figure out how much of that gets blamed on Bush and how much on Obama.
In 2009, Obama made one decision that affected the deficit that Bush would not have made, that being his ‘stimulus’ package. That’s on him. To be fair, then you would have to parse out the 2009 stimulus spending from Bush’s year and stick it onto Obama’s ledger; otherwise you’re blaming Bush for spending that Obama transacted.
The other think that happened in 2009 is that Sen. Schumer, when TARP was authorized at 750M, had it split into two tranches. Bush authorized one tranche of 375M, so that belongs on his ledger. Obama authorized the other tranche, but did not spend it all — — I think he spent about 175M, IIRC.
If you use 2001–2008 and 2009–2016 for Bush and Obama respectively, their deficit numbers look like this:
but….thats wrong. So, if you adjust that to 2002–2009 and 2010–2017, AND stick make the adjustments for the spending to each president (IOW, transfer 175M from Bush’s ledger to Obama’s for the 2nd tranch, and transfer the 500M (IIRC) of the “stimulus” from Bush’s ledger to Obama’s, the data looks like this:
The point is still made, however, and begs the following. You can see from the annual graph where Bush left things just prior to the meltdown:
So, after booking all that ill-advised wartime spending in 2004, Bush was on-track to get back to balance in 2009, maybe even in 2008. Meltdown happened, leaving the question: Why didn’t Obama’s deficits return to the Bush levels? Why did Obama get “stuck” in this 475B-ish annual deficit range, rather than dropping down to the 2007 level?
To be honest, I haven’t looked at the matter deeply enough to answer the question. Some commentators say that the stimulus included permanent spending increases, other say that the overruns of the ACA are largely to blame.
But in light of the recent tax bill, what IS interesting is this equation:
So, the 475 represents the 475B-ish level that we seem to be stuck at post Obama. The 150 represents the 150B that Bush, worst case, seemed to be managing the deficit to, which assumes that the trend broke and we got stuck at 150B. The 10 represents this new tendency for everyone to quote deficits “over 10 years”.
If you solve that, you find that the Democrats, one way or another under Obama, managed to raise the deficit baseline from 1.5T over 10 years to 4.75T over 10 years, an increase of 3.25T.
Apparently nobody gives a damn about money anymore. :-)