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Deficit Tracker

BPC’s economic policy team analyzes the government’s running budget deficit and updates the Deficit Tracker every month.

Large and sustained federal budget deficits are harmful to the fiscal health of the United States, yet policymakers struggle with reining in the red ink. Even as the U.S. economy expands, the federal government continues to run large and growing budget deficits that will soon exceed $1 trillion per year. It is an ominous trend. BPC’s economic policy team analyzes the government’s running budget deficit and updates the Deficit Tracker every month.

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Tracking the Federal Deficit:   May 2019

The Congressional Budget Office reported that the federal government generated a $207 billion deficit in May, the eighth month of Fiscal Year 2019, for a total deficit of  $738 billion so far this fiscal year. May’s deficit is 41 percent ($60 billion) more than the deficit recorded a year earlier in May 2018. If not for timing shifts of certain payments, the deficit would have been 7 percent ($11 billion) larger than the deficit in May 2018. Total revenues so far in Fiscal Year 2019 increased by 2 percent ($49 billion), while spending increased by 9 percent ($255 billion), compared to the same period last year.

Analysis of Notable Trends this Fiscal Year to Date: Corporate income tax receipts were down by 9 percent ($11 billion) compared to last year, reflecting the lower marginal corporate tax rate enacted in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Further, customs duties increased by 78 percent ($19 billion) versus last year, due to the imposition of new tariffs. On the spending side, Department of Defense spending increased by 10 percent ($39 billion) compared to last year, particularly on military operations, maintenance, procurement, and R&D. Finally, net interest payments on the federal debt continued to rise, increasing by 16 percent ($37 billion) versus last year due to higher interest rates and a larger federal debt burden.

Tracking the Federal Deficit: March 2019 

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported that the federal government generated a $149 billion deficit in March, the sixth month of Fiscal Year 2019, for a total deficit of $693 billion so far this fiscal year. March’s deficit is 29 percent ($60 billion) less than the deficit recorded a year earlier in March 2018. If not for timing shifts of certain payments, the deficit would have been 9 percent ($14 billion) smaller than the deficit in March 2018. Total revenues so far in Fiscal Year 2019 increased by 0.6 percent ($9 billion), while spending increased by 5 percent ($103 billion), compared to the same period last year.

Analysis of Notable Trends this Fiscal Year to Date: Customs duties increased by 86 percent ($16 billion) compared to last year. On the spending side, outlays for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid increased by a combined 4 percent ($26 billion, $10 billion, and $5 billion, respectively). Department of Defense spending rose by 9 percent ($28 billion), and net interest payments on the national debt were up by 13 percent ($22 billion), largely due to interest rates on short term debt being substantially higher now than they were during the first half of Fiscal Year 2018.

Tracking the Federal Deficit: February 2019 

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported that the federal government generated a $227 billion deficit in February, the fifth month of Fiscal Year 2019, for a total deficit of $537 billion so far this fiscal year. February’s deficit is 5 percent ($12 billion) higher than the deficit recorded a year earlier in February 2018. Total revenues so far in Fiscal Year 2019 decreased by 0.3 percent ($4 billion), while spending increased by 8.5 percent ($142 billion), compared to the same period last year.

Analysis of Notable Trends this Fiscal Year to Date: Income tax refunds were down by 10 percent ($10 billion) from October-February 2019 compared to the same period in Fiscal Year 2018, and corporate income tax receipts were down by 19 percent ($14 billion) from October-February 2019 relative to the same period in Fiscal Year 2018. The dip in corporate revenues is primarily attributable to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. On the spending side, Department of Homeland Security outlays decreased by 31 percent ($11 billion) due to a relative decrease in disaster spending versus last year. Conversely, net interest payments on the national debt were up 15 percent ($20 billion) from October-February 2019 compared to the same period in Fiscal Year 2018.

Tracking the Federal Deficit: December 2018 

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported that the federal government generated an $11 billion deficit in December, the third month of Fiscal Year 2019, for a total deficit of $317 billion so far this fiscal year. If not for timing shifts of certain payments, the deficit in December would have been roughly $32 billion, according to CBO. December’s deficit is 52 percent ($12 billion) lower than the deficit recorded a year earlier in December 2017. Total revenues so far in Fiscal Year 2019 increased by 0.1 percent ($2 billion), while spending increased by 9.4 percent ($93 billion), compared to the same period last year.

Analysis of Notable Trends in December 2018: Revenue from customs duties spiked by 83 percent ($8 billion) from October-December 2018, relative to the same period in 2017, due to the administration’s imposition of new tariffs. Conversely, corporate income tax revenue declined by 15 percent ($9 billion) from October-December 2018 relative to the same period in 2017. This dip mainly reflects the reduction of corporate tax rates enacted in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. On the spending side, interest payments on the federal debt in December 2018 rose by 47 percent ($11 billion) relative to December 2017.

Tracking the Federal Deficit: November 2018

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported that the federal government generated a $203 billion deficit in November, the second month of Fiscal Year 2019, for a total deficit of $303 billion so far this fiscal year. If not for timing shifts of certain payments, the deficit in November would have been roughly $158 billion, according to CBO. November’s deficit is 46 percent ($64 billion) higher than the deficit recorded a year earlier in November 2017. Total revenues so far in Fiscal Year 2019 increased by 3 percent ($14 billion), while spending increased by 18 percent ($115 billion), compared to the same period last year.

Analysis of Notable Trends in November 2018: Department of Homeland Security spending fell by 46 percent ($4 billion) relative to November 2017, reflecting a decrease in spending on disaster relief. Conversely, Social Security spending (benefit payments) increased by 5 percent ($4 billion) compared to November 2017.

Tracking the Federal Deficit: October 2018

The U.S. Department of Treasury reported that the federal government generated a $100 billion deficit in October, the first month of Fiscal Year 2019. October’s deficit is 59 percent ($37 billion) higher than the deficit recorded a year earlier in October 2017. If not for timing shifts of certain payments, the deficit in October would have been roughly $54 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Total revenues increased by 7 percent ($17 billion), while spending increased by 18 percent ($55 billion), compared to a year earlier.

Analysis of Notable Trends in October 2018: interest payments on the debt increased by 30 percent ($7 billion), compared to a year earlier.

Methodological Note:

The monthly tracker entries report preliminary spending, revenue, and deficit data from CBO’s Monthly Budget Reviews. These summaries are released on the fifth business day of every month and preview the release of official budget data from the U.S. Department of Treasury, which follows on the eighth business day of every month (except end-of-year data, which tends to be released later in October). Historically, CBO’s preliminary data is accurate, often differing from Treasury’s final figures by only a few billion dollars, if at all. For example, CBO preliminarily reported that the total Fiscal Year 2018 deficit was $782 billion in their September 2018 review, less than 1 percent ($3 billion) off the official figure of $779 billion that Treasury later reported.

The deficit tracker graphic is updated retroactively with official Treasury data, whereas the monthly text entries are not.

Note: Due to the government shutdown, the Monthly Treasury Statement for December 2018 has been delayed. Thus, while the deficit tracker graphic has been updated with data from the Congressional Budget Office, it will not be updated again with final treasury figures until the government reopens and Treasury produces a report for December 2018.

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