(By Andrew MacKie-Mason)
I've commented before on the misleading "debt graphs," but they seem to be a new liberal meme. So here we go again.
Yeah, no. Let's run quickly through the problems. The first one is egregious, and it's the same error I pointed out in the last graph I criticized: it makes no attempt to control for the number of years a President served in office. Three of the Presidents on the chart served for 8 years. One served for 4. The other, as of the data displayed on the chart, had served for 2 years and 3 months. You can see that if you read the fine print. But that doesn't stop it from being idiotic and misleading.
One way to correct this first error is to break the two-term Presidents into two entries each, and extrapolate the data for Obama. If you do that, the graph looks like the second one at right.
The second error is in the data presented: percentage of debt increase. Why is that a problem? Well why would we care at all about the percentage of debt increase? Doing it that way rewards later presidents, who inherited a larger debt, and punishes earlier presidents, who inherited a smaller debt. That is, a 100% increase in debt under Reagan means a very different thing than a 100% increase in debt under Obama.
While I suspect ideologues will keep posting misleading graphs and making silly arguments, I'll try one more time: just stop. It makes everyone look bad. There are legitimate counters to the argument that Obama is fiscally irresponsible. The first graph above is not one of them.
Note on data: due to limitations in the data I was able to find (here and here), debt amounts were taken on September 30th in the year the President took office. I.e., Bush Jr.'s "first term" is 9/30/2001-9/30/2005. I don't think it's a big deal, especially since spending immediately after a President takes office is arguably influenced by policies of the previous President. But if anyone finds better data, let me know and I'll redo the graphs.
Second note: Obama data was calculated by taking the increase in debt from 9/30/2009 - 9/30/2011, and then multiplying by two. Mostly because I was lazy, and didn't want to figure out a more complicated extrapolation factor. If anyone wants to check if a more detailed calculation has a significant effect, feel free to do so and let me know the results.