Four Charts Illustrating the Spending and Revenue Records of Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama

Posted on June 2, 2012 by


Just the facts Max.

keywords: Clinton, Bush, Obama, taxes, revenue, spending, deficit

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[June 3, 2012: Update: The original article posted here was computed from OMB’s data using “current dollars.” A reader pointed out that we should instead use numbers that reflect adjustments for inflation. The article has been updated to user “constant 2005 dollars” which are adjusted for inflation.]

June 2, 2012: Here we present the spending and revenue records of our current president, Barack Obama, and his recent predecessors George Bush and Bill Clinton. The data is available from the Office of Management and Budget here. In case that URL changes in the future, we have preserved a copy here:  hist01z3. The charts and data below use “constant 2005 dollars.” According to the OMB, the data has been normalized so it can be compared across years.

To the extent feasible, the data have been adjusted to provide consistency with the 2013 Budget and to provide comparability over time.

Chart 1: Total Spending by Year

Total spending is arranged by year of each administration. The first year of spending for each administration is presented in column 1. Column 1 represents 1993 for Clinton, 2001 for Bush, and 2009 for Obama. In the first 4 years of their administrations, spending was:

  • 19% higher under Bush than Clinton (1.19x)
  • 41% higher under Obama than Bush (1.41x)
  • 67% higher under Obama than Clinton (1.67x)

Chart 2: Change in Spending by Year

Total change in spending is arranged by year of each administration. The first year of change is presented in column 1. Column 1 represents 1993 for Clinton, 2001 for Bush, and 2009 for Obama. The green bar in column 1 represents the change from from 2008 to 2009. Because of the substantial increase in 2009 due to stimulus spending initiated by President Bush and continued by President Obama, there is significant debate regarding which president that year’s spending should be attributed to. There are liberal and conservative interpretations of that point.

In all of the years of their administrations (8 years for Clinton and Bush, 4 years for Obama), the average increase in spending per year was

  • 1.19% for President Clinton
  • 3.60% for President Bush: More than double Clinton’s increases.
  • 4.67% for President Obama: Even including the 17% jump in 2009.

Treatment of TARP expenditures

The OMB provides a comprehensive discussion of their data that we used in this article. See page 6 for discussion of TARP. Page 54 and 55 break down the expenditures by area by year. In one row, “Commerce and Housing Credit” we see significant increases from 2007 to 2008 and 2009 (+$27B and +$290B respectively). This represents increased spending to shore up housing loans starting to go bad in 2008, and TARP outlays in 2009. In 2010 and 2011 this element is negative, which reflects some TARP loan repayments.

The overall affect of those numbers on this study is to apparently increase spending in 2008 and 2009, and to decrease spending in 2010 and 2011 (and afterwords). The the changes caused by this spending are +$27B in 2008, +$317B in 2009, -$81B in 2010, and -$12B in 2011. In other words, if TARP had not happened we would see spending by year as follows:

Year As Reported Without TARP
2008 $2,703B $2,676B
2009 $3,173B $2,882B
2010 $3,081B $3,161B
2011 $3,126B $3,114B

If we used the “without TARP” numbers for these charts, the net impact would be to distribute the significant 2009 uptick in spending across 2009 and 2010. Here’s a chart that reflects these adjustments:

With TARP removed, the 17% jump in 2009 is transformed to a 7.7% climb in 2009 and a 9.7% climb in 2010. The cumulative impact of this revision is that we arrive in 2010 with spending 18% higher than in 2008 (vs 14% without that adjustment).

Chart 3: Total Revenue by Year

Total revenue is arranged by year of each administration. The first year of revenue is presented in column 1. Column 1 represents 1993 for Clinton, 2001 for Bush, and 2009 for Obama. Revenue reached an all time high in 2007 under George Bush. There was an 18% drop in revenue in 2009 due to the economic slowdown in that year. As of 2012, revenues are recovering and are 13% below the all time high.

Chart 4: Surplus/Deficit by Year

In this chart we report revenue minus outlay for each year. A positive number is of course a surplus, and negative numbers represent deficits. Totals for each president:

  • $459B deficit for President Clinton
  • $1,986B ($2.0T) deficit for President Bush
  • $4,678B ($4.7T) deficit for President Obama

According to the OMB, total deficit spending prior to President Obama, from 1940 to 2008 is $9,839B.

Charts in “current” dollars

I revised the article above to use OMB’s “constant 2005 dollars” which include adjustments for inflation. For completeness, here are the older charts computed from “current” dollars.

Total Spending in Current Dollars

Change in Spending

Revenue in Current Dollars

Surplus/Deficit in Current Dollars


We sought to provide an unbiased article, but must disclose that the author, Tucker Balch, is a registered Republican.