TABLE: Annual Growth (%) of the National Debt by President by Year

Today’s table is a simple one that shows the annual growth of the National Debt (on a percentage basis) by year and by president, from 1971 to 2015, a period where our national debt grew at a rate of 9.1% annually. More strikingly, the growth of the debt has accelerated under EVERY Republican president since Nixon, while it has slowed dramatically under EVERY Democratic president. This should not even be open to debate.

First, a few notes:

Start Year: The start year is 1971, because that marked a fundamental change in the world’s financial system, when countries moved from gold-backed currencies to the fiat currencies in use today.

Presidency: I only note the President in office at each annual interval. Certainly Congress bears some responsibility for the deficits that caused the debt to grow, but I’m highlighting the occupant in the Oval Office because they are the person who receives the most blame for those deficits.

Percentage Growth: While pundits love to speak in dollar terms, I believe that this is a fundamentally dishonest approach. Because the cost of inputs rises every year due to inflation, every dollar spent years ago could purchase far more than todays dollar. Therefore, the only way to compare the fiscal responsibility of each president honestly is to talk only in terms of percentages.

Notes: I attempted to include a note about any extenuating circumstances that were occurring at the time, but due to space constraints, there are numerous other pieces of data that I would have like to include, but can’t, including: Party control of the House and Senate, borrowing rates, etc. I’m simply countering the myth that the debt grows more under Democrat presidencies than under Republican presidencies.

If I failed to include something that you think is relevant, please let me know!


Growth of National Debt By President:

President Annual Growth
of National Debt
Nixon 6.4%
Ford 14.3%
Carter 10%
Reagan 14.7%
Bush #1 11.8%
Clinton 4.3%
Bush #2 7.4%
Obama 9.0%


Growth of National Debt By Party:

Party Annual Growth
of National Debt
Nixon 7.2%
Ford 10.5%


Growth of National Debt By President, by Year:

Year Increase President Notes
6/30/71 7.3% Nixon U.S. exitted Bretton Woods System; Vietnam War
6/30/72 7.3% Nixon Vietnam War
6/30/73 7.2% Nixon Vietnam War; Arab Oil Embargo
6/30/74 3.7% Nixon Vietnam War
6/30/75 12.2% Ford Vietnam War
6/30/76 16.4% Ford
9/30/77 12.6% Carter
9/30/78 10.4% Carter
9/30/79 7.1% Carter
9/30/80 9.8% Carter Iranian Revolution
9/30/81 9.9% Reagan
9/30/82 14.4% Reagan
9/30/83 20.6% Reagan
9/30/84 14.2% Reagan
9/30/85 16.0% Reagan
9/30/86 16.6% Reagan
9/30/87 10.6% Reagan
9/30/88 10.7% Reagan
9/29/89 9.8% Bush Fall of Berlin Wall
9/28/90 13.2% Bush First Persian Gulf War
9/30/91 13.4% Bush
9/30/92 10.9% Bush
9/30/93 8.5% Clinton
9/30/94 6.4% Clinton
9/29/95 6.0% Clinton
9/30/96 5.0% Clinton
9/30/97 3.6% Clinton
9/30/98 2.1% Clinton
9/30/99 2.4% Clinton
9/30/00 0.3% Clinton 2000 stock market crash
9/30/01 2.3% Bush 9/11; Afghanistan Invasion; 2000 stock market crash
9/30/02 7.2% Bush 2000 stock market crash
9/30/03 8.9% Bush Iraq Invasion
9/30/04 8.8% Bush
9/30/05 7.5% Bush
9/30/06 7.2% Bush
9/30/07 5.9% Bush
9/30/08 11.3% Bush Financial Crisis
9/30/09 18.8% Obama Financial Crisis
9/30/10 13.9% Obama
9/30/11 9.1% Obama
9/30/12 8.6% Obama
9/30/13 4.2% Obama
9/30/14 6.5% Obama
9/30/15 1.8% Obama

References: Historical Debt Oustanding



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