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The path from deficits to surpluses to deficits

Why did the budget deficits suddenly turn to surpluses from 1998 to 2001? And why did the surpluses return to deficits in 2002? Why did the deficit become so large after 2007? [link] suggests some answers. The graph combines the earlier information on total federal spending and taxes in a single graph, but focuses on the federal budget since 1990.

Total government spending and taxes as a share of gdp, 1990–2014

The graph shows that total spending and tax receipts rise and fall in contrast to one another. In 1990, total spending was around 22% whereas tax receipts which were just under 18%. In 2014, total spending was around 22% whereas tax receipts were around 17%.
When government spending exceeds taxes, the gap is the budget deficit. When taxes exceed spending, the gap is a budget surplus. The recessionary period starting in late 2007 saw higher spending and lower taxes, combining to create a large deficit in 2009. (Source: Economic Report of the President, Tables B-21 and B-1, "http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/ERP-2015/content-detail.html)

Government spending as a share of GDP declined steadily through the 1990s. The biggest single reason was that defense spending declined from 5.2% of GDP in 1990 to 3.0% in 2000, but interest payments by the federal government also fell by about 1.0% of GDP. However, federal tax collections increased substantially in the later 1990s, jumping from 18.1% of GDP in 1994 to 20.8% in 2000. Powerful economic growth in the late 1990s fueled the boom in taxes. Personal income taxes rise as income goes up; payroll taxes rise as jobs and payrolls go up; corporate income taxes rise as profits go up. At the same time, government spending on transfer payments such as unemployment benefits, foods stamps, and welfare declined with more people working.

This sharp increase in tax revenues and decrease in expenditures on transfer payments was largely unexpected even by experienced budget analysts, and so budget surpluses came as a surprise. But in the early 2000s, many of these factors started running in reverse. Tax revenues sagged, due largely to the recession that started in March 2001, which reduced revenues. A series of tax cuts was enacted by Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush, starting in 2001. In addition, government spending swelled due to increases in defense, healthcare, education, Social Security, and support programs for those who were hurt by the recession and the slow growth that followed. Deficits returned. When the severe recession hit in late 2007, spending climbed and tax collections fell to historically unusual levels, resulting in enormous deficits.

Longer-term forecasts of the U.S. budget, a decade or more into the future, predict enormous deficits. The higher deficits run during the recession of 2008–2009 have repercussions, and the demographics will be challenging. The primary reason is the “baby boom”—the exceptionally high birthrates that began in 1946, right after World War II, and lasted for about two decades. Starting in 2010, the front edge of the baby boom generation began to reach age 65, and in the next two decades, the proportion of Americans over the age of 65 will increase substantially. The current level of the payroll taxes that support Social Security and Medicare will fall well short of the projected expenses of these programs, as the following Clear It Up feature shows; thus, the forecast is for large budget deficits. A decision to collect more revenue to support these programs or to decrease benefit levels would alter this long-term forecast.

What is the long-term budget outlook for social security and medicare?

In 1946, just one American in 13 was over age 65. By 2000, it was one in eight. By 2030, one American in five will be over age 65. Two enormous U.S. federal programs focus on the elderly—Social Security and Medicare. The growing numbers of elderly Americans will increase spending on these programs, as well as on Medicaid. The current payroll tax levied on workers, which supports all of Social Security and the hospitalization insurance part of Medicare, will not be enough to cover the expected costs. So, what are the options?

Long-term projections from the Congressional Budget Office in 2009 are that Medicare and Social Security spending combined will rise from 8.3% of GDP in 2009 to about 13% by 2035 and about 20% in 2080. If this rise in spending occurs, without any corresponding rise in tax collections, then some mix of changes must occur: (1) taxes will need to be increased dramatically; (2) other spending will need to be cut dramatically; (3) the retirement age and/or age receiving Medicare benefits will need to increase, or (4) the federal government will need to run extremely large budget deficits.

Some proposals suggest removing the cap on wages subject to the payroll tax, so that those with very high incomes would have to pay the tax on the entire amount of their wages. Other proposals suggest moving Social Security and Medicare from systems in which workers pay for retirees toward programs that set up accounts where workers save funds over their lifetimes and then draw out after retirement to pay for healthcare.

The United States is not alone in this problem. Indeed, providing the promised level of retirement and health benefits to a growing proportion of elderly with a falling proportion of workers is an even more severe problem in many European nations and in Japan. How to pay promised levels of benefits to the elderly will be a difficult public policy decision.

In the next module we shift to the use of fiscal policy to counteract business cycle fluctuations. In addition, we will explore proposals requiring a balanced budget—that is, for government spending and taxes to be equal each year. The Impacts of Government Borrowing will also cover how fiscal policy and government borrowing will affect national saving—and thus affect economic growth and trade imbalances.

Key concepts and summary

For most of the twentieth century, the U.S. government took on debt during wartime and then paid down that debt slowly in peacetime. However, it took on quite substantial debts in peacetime in the 1980s and early 1990s, before a brief period of budget surpluses from 1998 to 2001, followed by a return to annual budget deficits since 2002, with very large deficits in the recession of 2008 and 2009. A budget deficit or budget surplus is measured annually. Total government debt or national debt is the sum of budget deficits and budget surpluses over time.

Problems

If a government runs a budget deficit of $10 billion dollars each year for ten years, then a surplus of $1 billion for five years, and then a balanced budget for another ten years, what is the government debt?

Got questions? Get instant answers now!

References

Eisner, Robert. The Great Deficit Scares: The Federal Budget, Trade, and Social Security . New York: Priority Press Publications, 1997.

Weisman, Jonathan, and Ashley Parker. “Republicans Back Down, Ending Crisis Over Shutdown and Debt Limit.” The New York Times , October 16, 2013. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/17/us/congress-budget-debate.html.

Wessel, David. Red Ink: Inside the High-Stakes Politics of Federal Budget . New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2013.

Questions & Answers

The quantity of a good demanded rises from 1000 to 1500 units when the price fallsfrom$1. 50 to$1. 00 per unit. Find the price elasticity of demand?
Rishiraj Reply
what is meant by Regional policy
Itz Reply
what is demand
Tangwe Reply
nice question..
Suman
what is aggregate demand and the equation for Y(GDP)
Davido Reply
what is cost concept
Fatai Reply
is a type of mechanism which makes consumers and individuals understand the price of goods and services
Davido
who is the father of Economics
John Reply
i dont know
Suman
Adam Smith
deep
hi
Zafraan
Adam
Zafraan
smith
Zafraan
Adam Smith
Bevingtone
What is opportunity cost
Bevingtone
is the value of the next best thing you give up when making a decision.
Bongiwe
opportunity cost is a made in order to enjoy something else
Laila
what is cost concept
Fatai
Adam Smith
Md
Adam Smith
Akligo
Adam Smith
Samura
What is demand and supply
Ehwehwe
demand refers to goods and services which consumers are willing and able to buy at a particular period of time and supply refers to the goods and services which consumers are willing and able to offer for sale at a particular period of time
Davido
demand is the quantity of goods and services which a particular customer is willing and able to purchase at that point in time.while supply is a quantity of goods and services which the company is willing and able to render to the customer who purchased it at that point
Israel
Adam Smith
Israel
cost concept. it is used for analyzing the cost of a project in short and long run
Israel
opportunity cost can be seen as a forgone alternative. it can be seen as the loss of other alternatives when one alternative is chosen
Israel
cost is value of imput and output at particular period of time. but we can classify in short run and long run.
Nago
Cost is the aggregated sum accrue in procuring something worthwhile.
KATUNKUS
what is the formula for elasticity
Umar Reply
perc of qty chg/perc of price chg
Suman
ok
Umar
I need some help regarding economic numericals.
Hassan
Send your problems
Tandan
utility
Oppong
demand or supply equation dy hn OK iska schedule bnana above equation ko dekhty hue kasy bnaye gy
Saba
what is cobweb?
Solomon Reply
A spider's web, especially when old and dusty (The wooden carvings were almost obliterated by cobwebs)
huzaif
what is Economic
Mbarohey Reply
Economic is a social science that study human behavior in relationship with end and scarce means which have alternative uses
Agyenkwa
Economics is an inquiry into nature that causes wealth of nations.
Eric
what are the importance of economic
Mbarohey
it helps us use our limited resources to satisfy our unlimited wants
Daniel
economic is the science of wealth
Joseph
it's helps us to be current on what's going on in the world
Joseph
economics can be defined as the science of wealth
Joseph
what are the advantages of sole proprietorship
Mbarohey
is the study of mankind in the ordinary business
Awini
Economic is science which study human behavior in relation to relatively scarce resources and how they are managed
Akligo
What is the formula for calculating elasticity?
Haruna Reply
(%change in quantity) / (%change in price)
Rahul
government spending increase will cause economic grew
Jia Reply
no
Helicia
no because government expenditure is very high the growth of the economy will decrease
Davido
what is trade by batter
Iko Reply
trade involves the transfer of good or services from one person to another, often in exchange for money.
musadique
Now trade by batter :it may define as form of trading in which good are exchange directly for other goods without the use of money as medium of exchange
musadique
is it good to trade with something with a value but given something which has no value
sandra
trade in batter means the exchange of goods and services without using money
Maa
It may be defined as an exchange of goods to satisfy the needs of two parties
Haruna
is the exchange of goods and services for the consumption of human wants
Davido
mention six factors that explain efficiency and productivity of labour
fanelchainz Reply
mention six factors that explain efficiency and productivity of labour
bohvy
factors that explain efficiency of labor are 1.population, 2.technology, 3.education, 4.working environment, 5.incentives (tax holidays) and 6.religious or cultural beliefs.
Solomon
What is demand
SoFIA Reply
is the abulity and willingness of a consumer to purchase goods and services at a particular peeiod of time in a given price
Fadhil
Is goods or service that a consumer is willing and able to purchase at a particular time over a giving period of time
Konja
is the ability and the willingness to buy a goods at a particular period of time in a given price
Prince
what is a central bank
Fadhil Reply
transactionsss with all banks of any country
Economics

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Source:  OpenStax, Principles of economics. OpenStax CNX. Sep 19, 2014 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11613/1.11
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