numbers can lie

Ok. Who was it that said there are lies, damn lies, and statistics? I don't know, but let me step out on a limb and demonstrate something. As you can see in the graphic (above), the “evil” (I say that for the majority of my Facebook friends who, apparently, don't think highly of America's 40th president) Ronald Reagan was the biggest deficit spender and he was a Republican. And all the other Republican presidents represented were bigger deficit drivers than the Democrat ones.

Setting aside the fact that it is Congress that does the spending, not the president, ask yourself… From what initial debt amount is that percentage increase?

Suppose Jane’s debt is one dollar (I’m using simple numbers, because they are easier for me) and she increases that debt by $1.86*. That would represent an increase of 186%.

Now suppose Jack’s debt is $1000 and he adds $230 to it. That would be a debt increase of 23%.

So, who is the bigger spender: Jack or Jane?

Of course, I could be accused of using numbers to make the Republicans look better than the Democrats, but that’s my point. Statistics can be used to make any point someone wants in order to make one party look bad and the other good (or less bad, because the debt increased with each president). We need to put these percentages in perspective. What was the debt amount when each president took office? By how much did Congress, during each president’s term, add to that debt? Also, are these percentages adjusted for inflation?

It’s quite possible that the Republicans are terribly evil people and that Democrats are altruistic saints (how’s that for hyperbole?), but when you see graphics like this one bear in mind that numbers can lie even while telling the truth.

*Correction: Anonymous,thank you for pointing out that I had my math wrong (see the comments). I have made the correction and it makes my point even better.


  1. excellent point! now you have me going to do research to back up reposting this picture. :)

  2. I think a jump from $1 to $186 is an increase of 18600%.

  3. Anonymous, I think you may be right. I'm refiguring my math.

  4. well, here's what i did. took the national debt figures at the end of the year prior to the presidents listed taking office and applied those percentages of increase attributed to each president during their reign and here's what i found...

    ron reagan added $1,690,816,000,000
    george bush added $1,404,596,000,000
    clinton added $1,640,732,000,000
    gwbush added $4,052,664,000,000
    obama added in 2yrs,10 mths $2,296,798,000,000

    it looks like gw is the biggest loser, but obama is falling in right behind him. makes me think of that picture i saw recently of obama and bush morphed together. thanks for the lesson today! :)