The following is a fact-check from the 5/23 episode of Meet the Press.


1) Since President Obama was sworn into office the national debt has increased 23% – MOSTLY TRUE

2.) President Obama and the Democratic leadership in Congress are “responsible” for that 23% increase in the national debt – HALF TRUE (Highly Misleading)

3) Under Obama’s budget the debt-to-GDP ratio will increase to 90% by 2020 – TRUE

4) Greece’s debt-to-GDP ratio is 115% – MOSTLY TRUE

SEN. CORNYN: There they go again blaming it on George Bush. I don’t know when this administration, when the Democratic leadership that got the majority in November 2008 are going to take responsibility for the 23 percent increase in the national debt since President Obama was sworn into office. Under the president’s own budget, our debt-to-GDP ratio will be up to 90 percent by 2020, 90 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Greece is at a 115 percent.

1) According to the Treasury Department, the current holding of debt on the day President Obama was sworn in, January 20, 2009, was $10.618 trillion and on May 21, 2010, the debt was at $12.978 trillion. This means that in that time the debt has increased by 22.31%. So Sen. Cornyn was off by .69%. Therefore stating that the debt has gone up by 23% since Obama was sworn in is MOSTLY TRUE.

2) However, it is also worth examining how Sen. Cornyn attaches that number to a statement or assertion that seems to indicate that Pres. Obama and the Democratic leadership are “responsible” for this total increase. To suggest that is highly misleading. Pres. Obama’s first budget did not take effect the day he was sworn in. If looking at the debt that Pres. Obama and the Democratic majority are “responsible” for as Sen. Cornyn suggests, then Oct 1, 2009 is the reasonable start date, when fiscal year 2010 and Pres. Obama’s first budget took effect. The debt at that point was $11.920 trillion, meaning the increase from then to May 21 was 8.95%. We agree with this analysis from crowd-checker kcars1:

The line for how much debt/spending a president is responsible is a difficult line to draw, particularly in this case because there has been so much extra-budgetary, emergency activity. The president enters office operating on the previous president’s budget for 9 months. In addition, there is greater than 50% of the budget that is already committed and which takes years to alter (Social Security, Medicare, and Net Interest). Adding to all of that, no one does zero-based budgeting, so programs already in place are likely to suck up a few dollars — at the very least in the process of being wound down.

So while Sen. Cornyn’s statement regarding the specific percentage increase and timeline is factual, the larger assertion he seems to be making is half true at best. Obviously Pres. Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress are responsible for some of the increase, indeed probably a majority of it, but if Sen. Cornyn means to imply they are totally or solely responsible for the 23% increase, that is false. If he meant some responsibility, then the statement would of course be true. Since we cannot know for sure which he meant, we deem it misleading and HALF TRUE.

3) Under Obama’s budget the debt-to-GDP ratio will increase to 90% by 2020- According to the Congressional Budget Office’s projection, if the current economic conditions and tax rates stay the same, the debt-to-GDP ratio will be 90% in 2020. Therefore, we rate this statement as TRUE.

4) Greece’s debt-to-GDP ratio is 115%- According to CIA-The World Factbook, the debt-to-GDP ratio was 113.4% in 2009. Because of the 1.6% discrepancy, we’ll rate this statement MOSTLY TRUE.

Special thanks to crowd-checker kcar1 for assisting with this fact-check.

This fact-check took a combined 2 hours.