What’s the best way to determine how much each President contributed to the $19.8 trillion U.S. debt? The most popular method is to start with the debt level when each President took office. It’s easier to look at a graph showing the percent of the debt accumulated under each President. It’s also important to compare the debt as a percent of economic output.But these aren’t accurate ways to measure the debt created by each President.Why? The President doesn’t have much control over the debt added during his first year in office. That’s because the budget for that fiscal year was already set by the previous President.For example, President Bush took office in January 2001. He submitted his first budget in February. But that was for FY 2002 which didn’t begin until October 1. For the first nine months of his new term, Bush had to live with President Clinton’s last budget. That was FY 2001, which continued until September 30, 2001. It’s why no new President is accountable for the budget deficit in his first year in office. It was created by his predecessor.Yes, it’s confusing. But the Federal fiscal year is set up that way to give the new President time to put together his budget during his first month in office. For more, see Federal Budget Process.