In the first 19 months of the Obama administration, the federal debt held by the public increased by $2.5260 trillion, which is more than the cumulative total of the national debt held by the public that was amassed by all U.S. presidents from George Washington through Ronald Reagan.
The U.S. Treasury Department divides the federal debt into two categories. One is “debt held by the public,” which includes U.S. government securities owned by individuals, corporations, state or local governments, foreign governments and other entities outside the federal government itself.
The other is “intragovernmental” debt, which includes I.O.U.s the federal government gives to itself when, for example, the Treasury borrows money out of the Social Security “trust fund” to pay for expenses other than Social Security.
At the end of fiscal year 1989, which ended eight months after President Reagan left office, the total federal debt held by the public was $2.1907 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
That means all U.S. presidents from George Washington through Ronald Reagan had accumulated only that much publicly held debt on behalf of American taxpayers. That is $335.3 billion less than the $2.5260 trillion that was added to the federal debt held by the public just between Jan. 20, 2009, when President Obama was inaugurated, and Aug. 20, 2010, the 19-month anniversary of Obama's inauguration.