Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

Fact checking "Decision Points"

Photo of George W. Bush by The Associated Press
Photo of George W. Bush by The Associated Press

In his recently-released memoir, President George W. Bush highlights his major decisions during his tenure in the White House, including his responses to Hurricane Katrina and the 2008 financial crisis.

We're planning to check several statements from the book, Decision Points, though we're also mindful that he's not limiting his latest talking points to just those pages.

During his book tour, for example, Bush defended his fiscal record in an interview on NBC's Today Show, saying that the ratio of the deficit to gross domestic product during his time in office "was lower than Ronald Reagan's by half. Lower than my dad's. And only [worse than] Bill Clinton among modern presidents. ... My debt-to-GDP (ratio) was the lowest or one of the lowest of modern presidents. My taxes-to-GDP (ratio) was the lowest and my spending-to-GDP" ratio was too.

PolitiFact checked on whether Bush was correct, turning to a historical table from the federal Office of Management and Budget that shows tax receipts, spending and the deficit as a percentage of GDP -- essentially, as a percentage of the nation's economy as a whole.

The challenge was figuring out exactly how to compare recent presidents, but to analyze the accuracy of Bush's statement, PolitiFact stuck closely to the words he used, and rated the statement Mostly True.

George W. Bush is correct that he outperformed his father, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and (mostly) Bill Clinton on the ratios he singled out. So if you consider those the "modern" presidents, he's right. If you broaden his modern presidents' reference to include those who have held the job since World War II, Bush winds up about average.