I'm kind of tired of saying this. We've had to live with Clinton claiming a success in the budget battles going from an annual budget deficit to a surplus, then we lived with Newt Gingrich doing the same saying he was the reason for it.
Here's the federal deficit chart from from the CBO that Factcheck.org uses to tell us Clinton was a hero in The Budget and Deficit Under Clinton:
Interesting indeed. Factcheck.org added an update saying readers noted a USAToday article which stated, "The Clinton administration reported a surplus of $559 billion in its final four
budget years. The audited numbers showed a deficit of $484 billion." That's over a trillion dollar difference!!! Oh my!!!
Even after looking into that USAToday article, Factcheck still claimed a surplus in the three of the last four years of Clinton budgets, "But even under accrual accounting, the annual reports showed surpluses of $69.2 billion in fiscal 1998, $76.9 billion in fiscal 1999, and $46 billion for fiscal year 2000."
I don't know how they figured that out, for those three reports they were so kind to link to show increases in total federal debt for each of those years to be $155.9 billion, $126.9 billion, and $20.9 billion respectively even with Factcheck continuing to claim there were budget surpluses. Yes, federal debt held by the public went down in each of those years so they were paying off some of their debts, but federal debt held in government accounts increased much more than the public held debt decreased.
Then we have this picture from Dueling Debt Deceptions from the very same fact checking organization claiming Clinton ran surpluses:
Ok, so then where did the $1.54 trillion increase in total federal debt come from during those very same Clinton years? Perhaps these fact checkers should start better checking their own facts.
(Update 11 Sep 12) - Craig Steiner explains it much better than I did over at the Myth of the Clinton Surplus.