U.S.

It's Only May, and the Federal Deficit Is Already Higher Than in All but Five Full-Year Deficits in U.S. History

If President Donald Trump’s spending and tax policies continue apace, a report by the Congressional Budget Office out Thursday found, the U.S. national debt will rise from 78 percent of the economy to 105 percent of the economy over the next decade.

“Beyond 2029, if current laws remained in place, deficits would grow, driving debt to its highest levels in the nation’s history,” according the report.

The news comes as the country approaches the halfway mark in the current fiscal year. Recent data from the Treasury Department shows the U.S. is already running a deficit of $691 billion. That's already higher than all but five full-year deficits in U.S. history, according to an analysis by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, a bipartisan nonprofit that focuses on the national debt. 

National Debt Clock The National Debt Clock in midtown New York City, February 15. The clock is constantly updated to display the current United States gross national debt and each American family's share of the debt. TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

Since taking office in 2017, President Donald Trump has signed a $1.2 trillion tax cut into effect and proposed large spending hikes in his budget outlines. Those hikes in outlays and cuts to revenue were responsible for 60 percent of this year's budget deficit, according to analysis by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. Without this Trump administration–approved legislation, the analysis found, this year's budget deficit would have reached its lowest levels since 2007, at about $360 billion instead of nearly $1 trillion.

Former deficit hawk Mick Mulvaney, who is doing double duty as both the president’s acting chief of staff and director of the Office of Management and Budget, admitted to The Atlantic last week that the Trump administration was “spending a bunch of money on stuff we’re not supposed to.” But, he said, “at least I’m losing at the very highest levels.”

As debt increases, so do interest payments, which then crowd out other parts of the budget to the point where interest payments on the national debt will soon exceed our national defense budget.

“Our growing debt burden will reduce opportunity, lower incomes, and only make it harder to fund important priorities in the future. While our economy is growing, we should be taking advantage of the opportunity to begin to manage our debt problem,” wrote Michael A. Peterson, CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.

The U.S. is currently headed toward unchartered waters, said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

“How many more dire warnings will it take before our leaders address the nation’s dismal fiscal picture?" said MacGuineas in a statement. "Rather than addressing the rapid growth of health and retirement costs, the last Congress cut taxes and increased spending by a combined $2.4 trillion.”

Amid concerns about increased deficit and debt, the current administration is also looking to invest heavily in infrastructure. President Trump met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer this week to discuss a bipartisan infrastructure bill. The group agreed to spend $2 trillion on the legislation but did not hammer out any policy specifics.

MacGuineas expressed concerns about what such spending could mean in the long run. “Now we’re talking about $2 trillion more of spending, and as much as $2 trillion on top of that for infrastructure, with virtually no word of how we will pay for them," she said. "At some point the fiscal recklessness has to stop.”

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