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By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Explain the U.S. federal budget in terms of annual debt and accumulated debt
  • Understand how economic growth or decline can influence a budget surplus or budget deficit

Having discussed the revenue (taxes) and expense (spending) side of the budget, we now turn to the annual budget deficit or surplus, which is the difference between the tax revenue collected and spending over a fiscal year, which starts October 1 and ends September 30 of the next year.

[link] shows the pattern of annual federal budget deficits and surpluses, back to 1930, as a share of GDP. When the line is above the horizontal axis, the budget is in surplus; when the line is below the horizontal axis, a budget deficit occurred. Clearly, the biggest deficits as a share of GDP during this time were incurred to finance World War II. Deficits were also large during the 1930s, the 1980s, the early 1990s, and most recently during the recession of 2008–2009.

Pattern of federal budget deficits and surpluses, 1929–2014

The graph shows that federal deficit (as a percentage of GDP) skyrocketed between the late 1930s and mid-1940s. In 2009, it was around –10%. In 2014, the federal deficit was close to –3%.
The federal government has run budget deficits for decades. The budget was briefly in surplus in the late 1990s, before heading into deficit again in the first decade of the 2000s—and especially deep deficits in the recession of 2008–2009. (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis (FRED). http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/FYFSGDA188S)

Debt/gdp ratio

Another useful way to view the budget deficit is through the prism of accumulated debt rather than annual deficits. The national debt    refers to the total amount that the government has borrowed over time; in contrast, the budget deficit refers to how much has been borrowed in one particular year. [link] shows the ratio of debt/GDP since 1940. Until the 1970s, the debt/GDP ratio revealed a fairly clear pattern of federal borrowing. The government ran up large deficits and raised the debt/GDP ratio in World War II, but from the 1950s to the 1970s the government ran either surpluses or relatively small deficits, and so the debt/GDP ratio drifted down. Large deficits in the 1980s and early 1990s caused the ratio to rise sharply. When budget surpluses arrived from 1998 to 2001, the debt/GDP ratio declined substantially. The budget deficits starting in 2002 then tugged the debt/GDP ratio higher—with a big jump when the recession took hold in 2008–2009.

Federal debt as a percentage of gdp, 1942–2014

The graph shows that federal debt (as a percentage of GDP) was highest in the late 1940s before steadily declining down beneath 30% in the mid-1970s. Another increase took place during the recession in 2009 where it rose to over 60% and has been rising steadily since.
Federal debt is the sum of annual budget deficits and surpluses. Annual deficits do not always mean that the debt/GDP ratio is rising. During the 1960s and 1970s, the government often ran small deficits, but since the debt was growing more slowly than the economy, the debt/GDP ratio was declining over this time. In the 2008–2009 recession, the debt/GDP ratio rose sharply. (Source: Economic Report of the President, Table B-20, http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/ERP-2015/content-detail.html)

The next Clear it Up feature discusses how the government handles the national debt.

What is the national debt?

One year’s federal budget deficit causes the federal government to sell Treasury bonds to make up the difference between spending programs and tax revenues. The dollar value of all the outstanding Treasury bonds on which the federal government owes money is equal to the national debt.

Questions & Answers

give the characteristics of good money?
Chok Reply
suppose that there is a positive aggregate demand shock. what graph most accurately show how this would affect the aggregate demand-aggregate supply model?
Shielyn Reply
ppf and ad/as
jax
PPF , AD/AS
Shubham
if there is advance technology in the fishing industry, how will this change in supply and demand
El Reply
yes
Shehazahd
increase Supply, since technology in fishing will increase the efficiency of fishing , higher productivity and thus lower per unit cost of production, which incentive producers to increase their supply. demand wise, not so sure. depends on what exactly is the advancement in tech.
samantha
how many types of natural rate of unemployment
Trina Reply
what is macro economic
muniira Reply
in the year 1933, Ragnar Frisch used the term macro
Ammu
factors that determine the country material standard ?
Serena Reply
population divide by gdp in currency analysis
Aniyikayekenny
what is the important of studying economics
Akurugu Reply
economics teaches you how to think not what think
umer
in order to know how our country operates and corporate with other countries based on the international marketing and to know how our economy is doing regarding incomes going in and out through exchange of goods and services,we have to study more about economics to gain more and better understanding
Betty
important studying economic is make a choice under the condition of scarcity
cafifo
is labour a intermediate good or final good
umer Reply
what is economics
Mahamed Reply
Economic is science, which Studies human behaviour and who they are earn and spend
Ammu
economics is the science which shows how can use scare resources among society
umer
economic is a science which study human behavior as a result relationship between ends at scarce means which have more than one use
Jovert
simply, economics is a science which studies human wants,
Saeed
Economy is knowledge of choice
Omid
how to derive the equation for the equilibrium level of national income in an open economy with no taxes
loise Reply
what is inflation?
Herry Reply
when price goes up with some shottime
umer
Give me 5 example for Macro economics
Neha Reply
1. Markets 2. Market Failure 3. Competition 4. Price Stability 5. Efficiency
Luyando
please can you explain markets and markets failure ?
Timothy
When we talk about Markets as an example of macroeconomics, we look at demand and supply in labor market.
Luyando
Then for market failures, we focus on market inefficiencies and failures such as the destruction of common goods due to economic systems that provide no incentive for their preservation
Luyando
Who is a discourage worker.?
Timothy
a discourage worker is simply a worker who stop looking for a job because he/she believe no job is available for them..
Joseph
sloping curve normal
Mirasol Reply
A normal sloping curve
Mirasol
State what happen to the aggregate supply curve for beef. The price of beef decrease
Mirasol
i think there is positive relationship between price n supply so as the price decreases the supply curve so decreases and vice versa
Dharani
quantity supply will decrease,less.profit for firms in a perfectly competitive market i guess
Joseph
yaa
Dharani
List two REASONS FOR LOW PRODUCTIVITY IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES?
KHONAYE Reply
DESCRIBE WHY MARGINALISED GROUPS ARE NORMALLY AFFECTED FIRST DURING A RECESSION.I'M IN GRADE 11
KHONAYE
A normal sloping curve
Mirasol
what are varriable of macro economics
maryam Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Macroeconomics. OpenStax CNX. Jun 16, 2014 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11626/1.10
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