Every month the U.S. Treasury releases data on the federal budget, including the current deficit. The following contains budget data for February 2020, which was the fifth month of fiscal year (FY) 2020.
The deficit for February 2020 was $1 billion larger than the deficit recorded in February 2019. However, this February was affected by shifts in federal payments because the first and last days of the month both fell on a weekend. Without those shifts, the February 2020 deficit would have been about $4 billion larger than the February 2019 deficit.
The cumulative deficit through the first five months of FY20 was $80 billion larger than it was through the first five months of FY19. However, certain federal payments were shifted into February 2020 because March 1st fell on a weekend. Without those shifts, the deficit in the first five months of FY20 would have been just $28 billion larger than it was last year.
The increase in the cumulative deficit reflects a $169 billion increase in outlays partially offset by an $88 billion increase in revenues.
While the deficit varies from month to month and some months may even record a surplus — 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 debt held by the public could rise to 180 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2050 if no changes are made to current laws. That level of debt would far exceed the 50-year historical average of approximately 40 percent 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.