January 30th, 2010
08:59 AM ET
3 years ago

CNN Fact Check: Is the annual deficit under Obama 12 times the deficit under Republicans?

(CNN) - At the House Republican retreat in Baltimore Friday, President Barack Obama and GOP Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas disagreed on several key facts about the federal budget. Hensarling said that "what were the old annual deficits under Republicans have become monthly deficits under Democrats" and that Obama's first budget "triples the national debt."

Obama said both of Hensarling's points were "factually just not true" and that he inherited "a $1.3 trillion deficit before I passed any law." The president challenged any "independent fact-checker out there to take a look at your presentation versus mine in terms of the accuracy of what I just said."

Fact Check: Is Hensarling correct when he says that Obama's first budget would have tripled the national debt and that his administration increased the annual deficit by a factor of 12? Is the president correct when he says he inherited a $1.3 trillion deficit?

– The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says the budget deficit for 2009 was $1.4 trillion, slightly more than triple the $458.6 billion deficit for 2008.

– An annual budget deficit of $1.4 trillion averages to about $117.8 billion per month.

– The average annual budget deficit during President George W. Bush's presidency was $250.7 billion, ranging from a high of $458.6 billion in 2008 to a low of a $128.2 billion surplus in 2001.

– The national debt held by the public was $5.8 trillion at the end of 2008 and increased by 30 percent to $7.5 trillion at the end of 2009, according to CBO calculations.

– The CBO has projected that if the president's first budget had been enacted as is, the national debt would have increased to $17.1 trillion by 2019, about triple the $5.8 trillion level at the end of 2008. In comparison,
the CBO said that the debt would have doubled to $11.7 trillion if the president's first budget had not been enacted and if the CBO's baseline economic assumption had instead been in place for the next 10 years.

– The CBO released a projection in January 2009 that the deficit would reach $1.2 trillion in 2009, before the costs for any new economic stimulus plans or new legislation were factored in.

Bottom line: Hensarling was correct in that the annual budget deficit soared in 2009, though it did not increase by twelve-fold as he asserted in his comments. However, he does come close for some years. The 2009 deficit was about nine times the size of the 2002 and 2007 deficits, when Republicans
controlled the White House and at least one chamber of Congress.

Obama was essentially correct when he said he inherited a budget deficit of $1.3 trillion. Though the budget deficit for 2008 was a then-record $458.6 billion, the CBO issued a projection in January 2009, just days before Obama took office that the budget deficit would reach $1.2 trillion that year, before the cost of any new stimulus plan or other legislation was taken into account.

As for the impact that Obama's first budget would have on the national debt, the CBO estimated the national debt would indeed triple by the year 2019 under the president's budget, from $5.8 trillion to $17.1 trillion. The
president's budget office, the Office of Management and Budget, projected that the national debt would increase to $16.0 trillion by 2019.

When the CBO issued its projections for Obama's budget in June 2009, it projected that the national debt would double to $11.7 trillion by 2019 if its pre-Obama baseline economic assumptions were held steady for 10 years. A more recent CBO baseline projection from this month puts the national debt at $14.3 trillion in 2019 and $15.0 trillion in 2020.

The budget process begins at the first part of each year when the president submits his proposal to Congress, which spends months debating and negotiating toward a final bill. That bill would go into effect on October 1, if it is passed by Congress and signed by the president in time. If that has not happened, Congress can pass continuing resolutions to allow the government to continue using the old budget.

soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Mickey

    Gee...Republicans called out again, and caught lying out their collective asses, and not a peep from the intellectually-challenged Republican/Conservative lemmings out there.

    January 30, 2010 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  2. Vigla

    These are facts easily obtained. Budgets are for the following year, not the current one. Republicans are trying to pin the 2009 budget, written by the Bush Administration, on Obama. This ploy is easily debunked. The loss of revenue is the main cause for the deficit, and we all should know that. Spending has kept many millions employed and kept the gov't from having even larger deficits because those people would have needed assistance. It is rather disengenuous for Republicans to complain about the result of their policies for almost 30 years. Deregulation and tax cuts did exactly what was expected. Let businesses run wild and recklessly and transfer all the wealth to the top 5% at the detriment of the middle class. Too bad it took a massive recession and financial collapse for people to see it.

    January 30, 2010 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  3. Hammerer

    So it was only nine times and comes close for some years. Why does CNN not call out Obama on this?
    By the way Obama knew what he was campaigning for so his defense is just an excuse.

    January 30, 2010 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |