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Annual change in the U.S. federal debt-to-GDP ratio, and presidential term averages:

Microsoft Excel

Source: CBO Current-Law Baseline

Ford had bad luck--his presidency coincided with a down phase of the business cycle. But other than Ford, the contrast between the Democrats and the old-style Republicans (Eisenhower and Nixon) on the one hand and the new-style Republicans on the other is quite striking.

Also worth noting is that after this recession is over we do not have a pre-2020 deficit problem--if output grows as projected, and if congress sticks to PAYGO, both of which are very big ifs.

Source: Comparing Debt-to-GDP Ratios with Presidential Terms