Friday, November 28th, 2014
Pants on Fire!
Chain email
Says President Barack Obama "doubled the national debt, which had taken more than two centuries to accumulate, in one year."

Chain email on Tuesday, July 10th, 2012 in a chain e-mail

Obama doubled the national debt in one year, chain e-mail states

No apologies, just a ridiculous attack on President Barack Obama for doubling the national debt in one year.

With that opening, a chain e-mail circulating in New Jersey kicks off a series of statements about the Democratic president’s record.

"SOME OF YOU MAY APPRECIATE THIS AND SOME OF YOU MAY NOT. I DO NOT APOLOGIZE FOR SENDING THIS, BECAUSE ITS THE TRUTH," the chain e-mail states. "If any other of our presidents had doubled the national debt, which had taken more than two centuries to accumulate, in one year, would you have approved?"

Near the end of the chain e-mail, the message adds: "Every statement and action in this email is factual and directly attributable to Barrack Hussein Obama. Every bumble is a matter of record and completely verifiable."

PolitiFact New Jersey already debunked a chain e-mail claim that Obama added more to the national debt in his first term than his 43 predecessors combined -- but doubling the debt in one year?

That brings this claim to a new extreme and, as federal data proves, it’s completely bogus.

The national debt has increased significantly during Obama’s tenure, but it never doubled in one year. The debt hasn’t even doubled over the roughly three and a half years since the president took office.

The chain e-mail includes various other statements about Obama’s time in the White House, from his use of a teleprompter to the gift he gave to the Queen of England. Check out this story from FactCheck.org about all of the claims made in the e-mail.

Now, let’s explain how the national debt has increased under Obama.

There are two commonly cited forms of national debt -- debt held by the public and total debt.

The debt held by the public refers to money borrowed from investors outside of the federal government. The total debt represents debt held by the public as well as money the federal government owes itself, including for programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

On Jan. 20, 2009, the date of Obama's inauguration, debt held by the public was about $6.3 trillion and total debt stood at roughly $10.6 trillion, according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s "Debt to the Penny" calculator.

A year later, debt held by the public was about $7.8 trillion and total debt was about $12.3 trillion. Those figures represent over-the-year increases of about 24 percent and 16 percent in the respective categories.

Both forms of debt continued to increase in the two subsequent years, but at a declining pace.

Between Jan. 20, 2010 and Jan. 20, 2011, debt held by the public grew by about 20.5 percent and total debt increased by roughly 14 percent.

From Jan. 20, 2011 to Jan. 20, 2012, debt held by the public went up by around 11.3 percent, while total debt increased by about 8.4 percent.

When PolitiFact New Jersey received the chain e-mail on July 10, debt held by the public stood at about $11 trillion and total debt was about $15.9 trillion. Compared to Obama’s inauguration, that’s an increase of roughly 75.6 percent and 49.5 percent, respectively.

So, starting with the inauguration, the largest over-the-year increase in either form of national debt was about 24 percent. Over the course of roughly three and a half years, both forms of debt have risen sharply, but still haven’t doubled.

The factors behind debt increases over the last decade include legislation approved by Obama, such as the stimulus bill signed in February 2009 and tax cuts enacted in December 2010, according to a study released in April 2011 by the nonpartisan Pew Fiscal Analysis Initiative.

But other contributing factors were initiated under President George W. Bush, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the analysis shows. Experts also have told us the weak economy has contributed to the higher debt.

Our ruling

A chain e-mail circulating in New Jersey claims Obama "doubled the national debt, which had taken more than two centuries to accumulate, in one year."

There’s no doubt that the national debt has increased significantly since Obama took office, but it’s outrageous to claim it doubled in one year.

Starting with his inauguration, the largest over-the-year increase in either form of national debt was about 24 percent. Even after roughly three and-a-half years into his presidency, both forms of debt still have not doubled.

We’re just left with three words to describe this claim: Pants on Fire!

To comment on this ruling, go to NJ.com.