The following is a fact-check from the July 18, 2010 episode of Meet the Press.


1) Over the course of the Bush[43] administration there was a 72% increase in the national debt, from $5.7 trillion to $9.8 trillion – MOSTLY TRUE

2) At the end of the Bush [43] administration, the U.S. had a $1.5 trillion budget deficit – TRUE

SEN. MENENDEZ: And it’s not just talking about President Bush, it’s the policies that they espouse that are in essence Bush’s policies. Those led us to a 72 percent increase in the debt from $5.7 trillion to $9.8 trillion when Bush left. It led us to a massive elimination of the surplus that Bill Clinton gave George Bush, and he had a $1.5 trillion deficit when he left office

1) According to the Treasury Department, when George W. Bush took office in 2001 the national debt was $5.73 trillion and when Bush left office in 2009, the national debt had increased to $10.63 trillion. That’s a 85% increase of $4.9 trillion. Sen. Menendez is off by 13%, but he is correct in the underlying message that the national debt did significantly increase under George W. Bush. Thus, we rate Sen. Menendez’s statement MOSTLY TRUE.

2) According to the Congressional Budget Office, under former president Bill Clinton there was a budget surplus in 1999 ($1.9 billion) and in 2000 ($86.4 billion). But the surpluses in 1999 and 2000 were not enough to eliminate the national debt. When the federal government spends more money than it takes in, that’s a deficit. When the government takes in more money than it spends, that’s a surplus (Treasury Department budget FAQs). Though former president Bill Clinton had two consecutive surplus years, the U.S. national debt actually increased $400 billion over his term (1992 to 2000).

When former president Bill Clinton left office in 2000 there was a $86.4 billion surplus. When former president George W. Bush left office in 2008 there was a $1.5 trillion budget deficit. Because Sen. Menendez was correct in stating that there was a $1.5 trillion budget deficit when George W. Bush left office and the budget surplus that Bill Clinton left from his presidency had turned into a deficit, we rate Sen. Menendez’s statement TRUE.

Special thanks to crowd-sourcer Shelley for assisting with this fact-check.

This fact-check took a combined 2.5 hours.