Every month the U.S. Treasury releases data on the federal budget, including the current deficit. This month's release contains budget data for November 2018, which is the second month of fiscal year 2019.
The deficit for November 2018 was $66 billion more than it was in November 2017. Most of that difference was caused by shifts in the timing of certain federal payments that increased outlays in November 2018. Without those shifts, the November 2018 deficit would have been about $20 billion more than it was a year ago.
The cumulative deficit through the first two months of FY19 was $104 billion larger than it was through the first two months of FY18. Most of that difference was caused by two separate shifts in the timing of payments — one that increased the size of the November 2018 deficit, and one that reduced the size of the October 2017 deficit. Without those timing shifts, the deficit during the first two months of FY19 would have been about $15 billion more than it was during the first two months of FY18.
While the deficit varies from month-to-month, and may even decline some months — for example, in April when taxpayers are submitting their personal income taxes — debt and deficits are on an unsustainable upward trajectory. The CBO projects that national debt could rise to about 150 percent of gross domestic product by 2048. That level of debt would far exceed the 50-year historical average of approximately 40% of GDP.
Why are such high-levels of debt so concerning? There are many reasons that Americans should be concerned about the rising national debt — particularly if you are concerned about economic growth, investments in our nation’s future, and preservation of our social safety net.