The 10% President

A question raised by President Obama’s immortal line on CBS’s “60 Minutes” on Sunday—”I think that, you know, as President, I bear responsibility for everything, to some degree”—is what that degree really is. Maybe 70% or 80% of the buck stops with him? Or is it halfsies?

Nope. Now we know: It turns out the figure is 10%. The other 90% is somebody else’s fault.

This revelation came when Steve Croft mentioned that the national debt has climbed 60% on the President’s watch. “Well, first of all, Steve, I think it’s important to understand the context here,” Mr. Obama replied. Fair enough, so here’s his context in full, with our own annotation and translation below:

“When I came into office, I inherited the biggest deficit in our history.1 And over the last four years, the deficit has gone up, but 90% of that is as a consequence of two wars that weren’t paid for,2 as a consequence of tax cuts that weren’t paid for,3 a prescription drug plan that was not paid for,4 and then the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.5

“Now we took some emergency actions, but that accounts for about 10% of this increase in the deficit,6 and we have actually seen the federal government grow at a slower pace than at any time since Dwight Eisenhower, in fact, substantially lower than the federal government grew under either Ronald Reagan or George Bush.7”

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