There are lies, damned lies, and statistics… and then there are graphs. I wonder what trickery may lay behind this graph? Could it be in the undefined term “public debt” or the rather loosely specified data source of “Treasury Department”? Perhaps it is that the current administration is credited with only 15 months compared with the others’ 48 and 96.
Regardless, the blame game that is this graph’s rather obvious mission is long on finger pointing and short on finding ways to avert our nation’s fiscal crisis.
To engage in a bit of finger pointing of my own, I find that this graph indicates that Clinton’s so-called surplus must have nothing more than a matter of creative accounting.
We all find it unpleasant to be confronted with data that challenges our preferred beliefs about how the world works, and so we suspect the data is bogus or full of “trickery.” I do this too when I see information about the spinelessness of Democrats, but less and less lately as I’ve come to accept the truth of that weakness in my lifelong party.
And of course the economic performance of presidents is a very charged subject, so that’s an especially difficult area to get clear about. And it’s very difficult to know who to trust. Obviously the graph in the article above, coming from the “Office of the Democratic Leader,” would be difficult for anyone to accept who is not inclined to trust that person or party.
The best source of information I’ve seen on that subject lately is in the book, “Presimetrics: What the Facts Tell Us About How the Presidents Measure Up On the Issues We Care About,” by Mike Kimel and Michael E. Kanell.
Here are a couple of interesting charts (from Kimel’s blog) comparing presidential performance with regard to Debt as a percentage of GDP, and with regard to real (inflation-adjusted) income growth:
By the way, Kimel, also in a blog post, adds these comments about the Reagan presidency:
“When you take into account future obligations to pay back debt, Reagan no longer even looks as good as Jimmy Carter. A rising tide, fueled by debt, wasn’t so great at lifting at most people’s boats… unless compared to the tide generated during other Republican presidencies.
But concluding that Reagan was someone to emulate means more than just ignoring the fact that he underperformed most Democrats on economic issues. It also means ignoring the fact that Reagan also didn’t particularly care about Republican ideals either, not even the ones he parroted frequently and loudly. For instance, a big source of state and local funding is the federal government. Presidents who truly want to move power away from Washington generally try to increase the transfers from the Federal government to state and local governments. But that is most definitely not what Reagan did.”
Also by the way, the term “public debt” is not undefined as you suggest, but rather among economists is strictly defined (as is “private debt”).
And click here for Kimel’s data sources (Excel spreadsheets):
It would seem, then, that comparing 15 months of Obama’s administration’s spending with that of G. H.W. Bush’s administration’s 48 months, and Reagan’s, Clinton’s, and G.W. Bush’s administrations’ 96 months is the essence of the deception in the Office of the Democratic Leader’s graph.
Look up the word, “annualized,” which is the methodology used in Kimel and Kannel’s “Presimetrics,” and is reflected in the graphs I added in my comments above. These additional graphs are even more compelling than the Democratic leader’s graph (while being in substantial agreement with it as to its basic conclusion about which presidents have been most profligate).
This annualized methodology allows for comparisons of presidential terms of differing lengths.
I find all of the graphs above not only compelling but in complete agreement with everything else I’ve read on the subject from all sources.
If you have some contrary data — actual data in the form of quantitative numbers on Debt growth relative to GDP, etc, that you feel will shed light on this issue — feel free to post that data.
I get that you don’t like the data I’ve posted, but I chalk that up to Stephen Colbert’s adage:
“Reality has a liberal bias.”
Just to make it clearer, I’ve circled the important portion of the Debt and Income graphs from “Presimetrics,” below. I conclude from these data that the economy has done significantly better — at least as measured by reduction of debt and growth of per capita income — under Democratic presidents than under Republican presidents (for whatever reason):
Again, if you have data (as opposed to “mere” opinion) that contradicts this conclusion, feel free to post it.
See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_debt_by_U.S._presidential_terms
> “Look up the word, “annualized,” which is the methodology used in Kimel and Kannel’s “Presimetrics,” and is reflected in the graphs I added in my comments above”
Interesting; thanks Don.
This exchange makes it clear that the “how to have a rational discussion” flowchart (link) is good-but-not-sufficient for “how to have a rational discussion in blog comments” – or in any venue that don’t got body language.
Here’s some perspicacity that Google brought me, from a Richard K. Moore in 1999; and it partially applies.
What a shame!
The model of discourse [that Moore is criticizing], is to begin a debate, find
the areas of greatest disagreement, and then enter into a “Yes it is”, “No
it isn’t” exchange. Agreement is never reached and little is learned by
either party. Other subscribers can either watch the boxing match, or they
can jump into the ring and risk getting punched themselves.
There are other lists where productive dialog occurs. They have a
different attitude. Areas of agreement are noted and acknowledged. There
is an attempt to sympathize with the other viewpoint and to identify where
there might be common ground. From there, the area of agreement can be
expanded, by considering those areas of disagreement which are least
‘charged’. Rather than each side trying to ‘defeat’ the other, you have
two sides, working together, to overcome their common foe: the list of
remaining disagreements. Other subscribers are more likely to participate
– it’s more fun to join folks building something, than to join a fight.
Kudos to Don Pelton for being (IMO) the best role model on NCVoices.us for productive discourse.
Michael, would you be interested in participating to build an argument tree, for “origin, continuance, and reduction of deficit” arguments?
“Kudos to Don Pelton for being (IMO) the best role model on NCVoices.us for productive discourse.”
Thanks, Anna (he says, while thinking, “Damn, now she’s got me boxed into a corner of civility!”).
A clarification re my “…in any venue that don’t got body language….” – what I meant is, that body language can provide “I acknowledge your point” communication w/o explicitly verbally acknowledging.
Acknowledgment is helpful since it resolves ambiguity:
When Person A lodges an objection, and then Person B explains why it doesn’t apply, in the ideal productive, “friends” discourse, Person A will now explicitly acknowledge Person B’s point, instead of just going silent.
( otherwise, readers aren’t sure whether Person A
a) still disagrees,
b) hasn’t revisited the thread or been motivated to respond,
c) recognizes & accepts B’s point, or
d) recognizes the point but is a shill, & so is constrained from acknowledging it.
(see: H.B. Gary (link))
That body language point is really interesting, and probably goes a long way toward explaining why it is so easy to engage in flame wars online.
We could think of anonymity (for instance in those unproductive Union threads) as the most extreme form of a “venue that don’t got body language.” Since a proper name more or less uniquely denotes an embodied person, we can sometimes infer the “virtual body language” from the style of expression (if the person is known to us). For instance, if my son says “it’s all good” in an email, I’m likely to recall the gently reassuring voice inflection he typically uses when speaking that phrase. If an anonymous speaker uses that phrase, it could carry any part of a spectrum of connotations, from dismissive irony to gentle reassurance.
Without even so much as a true name, we have no reason to trust anything about the speaker (gender, etc) or the words that are spoken, and almost no clues (except context) for sorting it out.
By the way, Anna, that great Mother Jones Chris Mooney article you pointed out (“The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science“) has really changed my thinking about the dynamics of discourse, and what we are all doing when we debate. (And Mooney emphasizes the psychological fact of the increased credibility of trusted sources).
It’s very sobering and humbling to realize that reason has evolved in us human creatures not as a mechanism for discerning truth, but as a mechanism for persuading others (much like our conventional understanding of the word, “rationalization”). Now that I “buy” that idea, I’m seeing it at work everywhere (even in myself), in somewhat the same fashion as when we bought a Volkswagen, we started seeing Volkswagens eveywhere. 🙂
> “that body language point…probably goes a long way toward explaining why it is so easy to engage in flame wars online….Since a proper name more or less uniquely denotes an embodied person, we can sometimes infer the “virtual body language” from the style of expression (if the person is known to us)..”
And if the person isn’t known to us, there’s the potential for absurd situations, like people quailing from Amy Farrah Fowler…
(and if you haven’t watched The Big Bang Theory, you must.)
I never heard of the Big Bang Theory (except Georges Lemaître’s !) until you mentioned it here.
But now that I’ve read a synposis of it, we’ll check it out.
It looks like just my weird and quirky cup of tea!
Why aren’t Democrats spreading these facts? Maybe special interest has finally gotten both Democrats and Republicans tongue. It is a plan by the aristocracy to keep the masses divided and poor. If the country remains in debt, then the citizens will also be in debt.
The stories about the American dream can be counted in the hundreds not in millions. If hard work was the recipe for success, then why aren’t the hard working people succeeding? If education was the answer, then why are the graduates working for such low wages? Those who make money from their God given talents usually loose every penny before they die, most time to the tax man. thereby denying an inheritance to their descendants. In the end, the guy who own the armies can take away all the money from those who accumulate it.
What is happening here is not any different to what the masses are experiencing in India and China, in fact it is more extreme. Who are the aristocrats? Extreme thieves with heavy armoury.
Propaganda supports the preferred privilege of the oligarchy. Thousands of students rally outside Atlanta government buildings for Troy Davis, but they are ignored. False liberal Amy Goodman interviews blacks and attempts to have them add to disaffection for President Obama. The photos, pictures and timeline stories exhibit exactly what has happened with this economy, and yet there isn’t any democrat touting these facts. Why? The truth of the matter is that a campaign cost millions and you can’t bite the hand that feeds you, even if that hand feeds you sparingly.
What was the Amy Goodman interview you referred to? I’d like to see it.
Read and understand this simple bit of math.
If you have $1 and I give you $2, I increased your money by 200%.
If you have $12 and I give you $3, I increased your money by 25%.
Reagan added $1.86T to the existing $998B when he entered office. It took him 8 years to do it.
Obama added $2.86T to the existing $11.9T when he entered office. It’s been his budget for only the last 2 years.
The graph is a sham used to gull the ignorant.
Simple all right. Too simple.
Using your own data, Reagan increased the debt by about 54% ((0.998T/1.86T=0.536)*100), while Obama only increased it by about 24% ((2.86T/11.9T=0.2403)*100)..
So, Reagan’s performance was twice as bad as Obama’s has been so far. That’s nothing to boast about.
Of course, what you also leave out is that it is precisely 30 years of “Reaganomics” (a set of disastrous and now widely-discredited economic practices named after a B-movie actor) that led to the meltdown that Obama inherited.
So, I blame Reagan for Obama’s initial performance too, although Obama more and more owns it as time rolls on, particularly since he has been so slow in attacking the jobs problem.
See also the following two graphs from the book, “Presimetrics,” which clearly show the better perfomance generally of Democratic over Republicans presidents (from JFK through GW). I’ve circled the important portion of the Debt and Income graphs.
I conclude from these data that the economy has done significantly better — at least as measured by reduction of debt and growth of per capita income — under Democratic presidents than under Republican presidents (for whatever reason):
If you have data (as opposed to “mere” opinion) that contradicts this conclusion, feel free to post it.
By the way (to reprint one of my previous comments from above) …
Kimel (one of the authors of “Presimetrics”) in a post from his blog, adds these comments about the Reagan presidency:
Curious, I crunched the numbers, getting the Total Public Debt Outstanding for each president at the start and end of their terms, from the Treasury Dept. website. I found: Ronny–187% increase, Bush 1–68% increase, Wild Bill–25% increase, Bush 2–13% increase, Obama–130% increase. Not sure how they got Bush 2 and Obama’s numbers or even Bill’s, none of them are close to reality. A different way to look at the numbers is by actual dollar amount increases. IN TRILLIONS: Ronny added 1.75, Bush 1 added 1.85, Bill added 1.12, Bush 2 added 0.7, Obama added 8.33 and he’s not done yet. I also googled ‘office of the democratic leader’ which returned Nancy Pelosi’s webpage and given the spring 2011 date on the graph suggests her office is responsible for this inacurate graph. The US government described Adolph Hitlers propaganda techniques thusly, “His primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.”
To see the comparative performance of presidents in terms of debt as a percentage of GDP, which gives possibly a more meaningful metric, a good source is the book, “Presimetrics,” by Mike Kimel and Michael E. Kanell. See also Kimel’s blog for a general discussion of the economic performance of presidents.
Hm, this is interesting. I thought the use of percentages was kinda weird, so I did the math…
For simplicity, if Reagan inherited a $1 debt, the debt would have increased by $1.89 and he would have left with a $2.89 debt, right? If you keep compounding that with every President, Obama has increased the debt by $2.11. That puts him second but still far behind Bush 43’s total (which is appalling, btw). BUT Obama has only been in office for two years. So, if you divide the dollars increased by the years in office, Obama already leads the increases by a quite a bit. If he were to serve 8 years, at this rate he’d surpass Bush 43’s total in under 7 years. Clinton and Reagan had by far the lowest increases per year.
Here’s my math: http://tinypic.com/r/nqz0bs/7
Check out http://www.usgovernmentdebt.us for the actual data. Also, be sure that when you calculate the growth in debt that you use the correct numbers. Grant (above) used a starting debt for Reagan at $998B which was the total debt at the end of 1981. He should have used $909B which was the debt from 1980 as his starting point and $2,601B for the ending debt. This gives you an increase of 186%. Then for Bush I, use $2,601B for his starting debt and $4,001B for his ending debt (54% increase). Then for Clinton, use $4,001B and $5,628B and you get 41% increase. Bush II goes from $5,628B to $9,986B (77% increase) and finally, Obama started at $9,986B and ended at $13,528B in 2010 (35% increase), and an estimate of $15,476 in 2011 (55%).
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