Anatomy of a deficit

The “socially liberal, fiscally conservative, and academically rigorous” (per CQ) Center on Budget and Policy Priorities presents this (literally) graphic depiction of the U.S. government deficit over the next decade.

The deficit for fiscal 2009 was $1.4 trillion and, at an estimated 10 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), was the largest deficit relative to the size of the economy since the end of World War II. Under current policies, deficits will likely exceed $1 trillion in 2010 and 2011 and remain near that figure thereafter….

The recession battered the budget, driving down tax revenues and swelling outlays for unemployment insurance, food stamps, and other safety-net programs. Using CBO’s August 2008 projections as a benchmark, we calculate that the changed economic outlook accounts for over $400 billion of the deficit in 2009 and slightly smaller amounts in subsequent years. Those effects persist; even in 2018, the deterioration in the economy since summer 2008 — including the extra debt-service costs — accounts for over $300 billion in extra deficits. [emphasis added]

What I like about this chart: It’s comprehensive yet comprehensible. The average voter can see how many factors contribute to the shortfall, and how various expenditures increase the deficit as they continue over time.

The moral of this story is no surprise: “Hey, Congress, don’t buy stuff (wars, tax cuts) you can’t afford, and do try not to let the excesses of unregulated capitalism decimate the economy. Kthxbye.”

Readers: Any other aspects of the budget/deficit you’d like to see added to this chart?

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