Novak falsely claimed that national debt is smallest percentage of GDP "that it has ever been"

››› ››› NICOLE CASTA

In describing the mounting national debt as "a phony issue," CNN host and syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak stated that the debt "is smaller as a percentage of GDP [gross domestic product] than any of our other -- than it has ever been." In fact, the national debt as a percentage of GDP (Excel document) has grown every year since President George W. Bush has been in office. In 2004, the $7.4 trillion national debt constituted 62.9 percent of GDP; in 2001 when Bush took office, the debt was 57.3 percent of GDP. In 1981, it was 32.9 percent of GDP; in 1929, the earliest year for which the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis lists GDP figures, it was just 16.3 percent. The 2004 figure of 62.9 percent is close to double that of 1981 and nearly four times that of 1929.

Year National debt ($) GDP ($) Debt as percentage of GDP
1980 930,210,000,000 2,789,500,000,000 33.3%
1981 1,028,729,000,000 3,128,400,000,000 32.9%
1982 1,197,073,000,000 3,255,000,000,000 36.8%
1983 1,410,702,000,000 3,536,700,000,000 39.9%
1984 1,662,966,000,000 3,933,200,000,000 42.3%
1985 1,945,941,616,460 4,220,300,000,000 46.1%
1986 2,125,302,616,658 4,462,800,000,000 47.6%
1987 2,350,276,890,953 4,739,500,000,000 49.6%
1988 2,602,337,712,041 5,103,800,000,000 51.0%
1989 2,857,430,960,187 5,484,400,000,000 52.1%
1990 3,233,313,451,777 5,803,100,000,000 55.7%
1991 3,665,303,351,697 5,995,900,000,000 61.1%
1992 4,064,620,655,522 6,337,700,000,000 64.1%
1993 4,411,488,883,139 6,657,400,000,000 66.3%
1994 4,692,749,910,013 7,072,200,000,000 66.4%
1995 4,973,982,900,709 7,397,700,000,000 67.2%
1996 5,224,810,939,136 7,816,900,000,000 66.8%
1997 5,413,146,011,397 8,304,300,000,000 65.2%
1998 5,526,193,008,898 8,747,000,000,000 63.2%
1999 5,656,270,901,615 9,268,400,000,000 61.0%
2000 5,674,178,209,887 9,817,000,000,000 57.8%
2001 5,807,463,412,200 10,128,000,000,000 57.3%
2002 6,228,235,965,597 10,487,000,000,000 59.4%
2003 6,783,231,062,744 11,004,000,000,000 61.6%
2004 7,379,052,696,330 11,735,000,000,000 62.9%

From the May 18 edition of CNN's Crossfire:

NOVAK: You know, James [Carville, co-host], of all the lousy issues you have, the lousiest is the debt. As Ronald Reagan once said, I don't worry about the national debt; it's big enough to take care of itself. As a matter of fact, it is smaller as a percentage of GDP than any of our other -- than it has ever been. This is a phony issue. That's not hurting us.

Posted In
Economy
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