As Cato Institute’s Michael Tanner explains, in 2008, when President Obama first took office, public debt equaled 39% of GDP. Today it is over 73%, the largest share since 1950 when America was still paying down WWII debt.
When President Obama took office, debt held by the public equaled 39 percent of GDP. Today, it exceeds 73 percent. That’s its largest share of the economy since 1950, when we were still paying down the World War II debt. If one includes intragovernmental debt (such as the bonds in the Social Security and Medicare trust funds), our national debt exceeds 103 percent of GDP, bigger than our entire economy. Of course, the unfunded liabilities of Social Security and Medicare have continued to grow as well. Throw those in and, even using optimistic assumptions, our real debt runs as high as $83.9 trillion, roughly five times larger than our economy. (By some calculations, it’s even higher.)
Austerity? Not so much.
Obama’s fix for this? “Abandon the era of austerity.” And rather than trying to impose fiscal restraint, Republicans have joined Democrats in passing, for example, a massive new farm bill that will cost taxpayers $1 trillion over the next 10 years. The only rumblings coming from some Republicans is that Chuck Hagel’s five-year defense plan doesn’t spend enough, even though the plan spends about $100 billion more than sequestration levels. For more on defense spending shenanigans, read what Cato’s Chris Preble and Ben Friedman have to say in today’s post, Flash: Hagel Military Cuts but Tip of Iceberg.