Inspired by this post at Angry Bear (ht Atrios), I noticed a striking pattern and decided to dig a little further into the data taken from the Economic Report of the President, table B-79. Over the last 30 years, when there has been a Republican occupying the office of the President, the national debt as a percentage of GDP has soared. You can see that it increased from about 35% at the beginning of the Reagan Admin to almost 70% by the time Bush Sr. was booted from office.
Another way to illustrate this is look at YOY change in the debt:GDP ratio. That is, if the ratio increased from Year 1 to Year 2, then the YOY change will be positive. Conversely, if the ratio decreased from Year 1 to Year 2, then the YOY change will be negative. This figure is particularly striking.
You can see that the debt:GDP ratio improved (ie became smaller) YOY under the Carter administration. This is especially surprising, because the US economy was in a recession and I imagine GDP growth was relatively stagnant. After all, this ratio could improve if GDP grew faster than the debt. Since a recession is, by definition, weak GDP growth, then that means there was no significant growth in national debt during Carters tenure.
Reagan/Bush Sr, in contrast, pushed the debt:GDP ratio to astronomical heights. No doubt this was a combination of increased military spending and decreased revenue due to massive tax cuts.
Clinton improved the debt:GDP situation somewhat, and in fact the debt:GDP ratios were most negative in 2000 Clinton's last year in office.
Bush, Jr has adopted his father's "charge it and forget it" ways and has pushed the debt:GDP back into record territory. Again, a nasty combination of tax cuts and rampant military spending.
Despite their claims, Republicans can hardly be called the party of fiscal responsibility...