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How Much Did Obama Really Add to Deficit?

Ezra Klein crunches the numbers and comes up with a lower total than you think
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 1, 2012 10:14 AM CST
How Much Did Obama Really Add to Deficit?
Detail of the National Debt Clock, a billboard-size digital display showing the increasing US debt, on Sixth Avenue August 1, 2011 in New York.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – Mitt Romney has taken to carrying around a debt clock, blaming President Obama for the ever-climbing number it shows. But the clock doesn't show how much Obama has actually added to that debt, so Ezra Klein set out to find out. "There are two answers," he writes in the Washington Post. The first, which is "simple and wrong" is $4.7 trillion. That's what you get when you subtract the debt when Obama took office (about $10.5 trillion) from the current debt (about $15.2 trillion).

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But most of that debt increase wasn't a result of Obama's policies, but of those he inherited. So Klein had the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities calculate a baseline budget based on preexisting policies and trends, and then pinned any deviations from it on Obama. The analysis, carried through the end of a theoretical second Obama term, would have Obama adding about $983 billion to the deficit. For comparison, applying the same calculation to George W. Bush yields a $5 trillion deficit jump. Click for the full column. (Read more Barack Obama stories.)

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