The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

The budget deficit is now at its lowest point since 2008, according to the Treasury Department.

Government spending exceeded revenues by $680.3 billion in fiscal year 2013, down more than 37 percent from FY 2012’s budget of $1.09 trillion and down 51 percent from its peak in 2009.

While the deficit is still historically large in pure dollar amounts, it’s actually lower as a share of gross domestic product, the key measure of the output of the entire economy, than the average deficits racked up by both Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, as economist Justin Wolfers pointed out Thursday morning.

Reagan grew the average deficit to 4.2 percent after inheriting Jimmy Carter’s average of 2.7 percent. George H.W. Bush averaged deficits that were 4.3 percent as a share of GDP. George W. Bush inherited Bill Clinton’s surplus and still ended up with deficits that averaged 3.4 percent as a share of GDP, leaving President Obama a deficit that was larger than 10 percent as a share of the economy.

Even before this year, the deficit was already falling at its fastest rate since World War II. Revenues collected by the Treasury accounted for 79 percent of this year’s deficit cut. The 13.3 percent growth in government receipts comes from ending some of the Bush tax cuts and from job growth, with 1.6 million workers added to payrolls this year. The automatic cuts known as the sequestration played a smaller role, as government spending dipped by 2.4 percent.

The budget debate has focused on eliminating the short-term deficit, with most Americans under the misconception that government spending and the deficit are growing.

But economic growth is the key to balancing the budget, notes former Clinton and Obama advisor Larry Summers.

Data from the CBO imply that an increase of just 0.2 percent in annual growth would entirely eliminate the projected long-term budget gap,” he noted recently in the Washington Post. “Increasing growth, in addition to solving debt problems, would also raise household incomes, increase U.S. economic strength relative to other nations, help state and local governments meet their obligations and prompt investments in research and development.”

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

For nearly 50 years, the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade ruling has protected a woman's right to an abortion. It also protected many politicians' careers. Lawmakers who opposed abortion knew that as long as abortion remained available, pro-choice voters wouldn't care much about their positions on the matter.

That would be especially true of suburban mothers. Once reliable Republican voters, they have moved toward Democrats in recent elections. If the GOP wants them back, forcing their impregnated high schoolers to bear children will not help. If Roe is overturned, more than 20 states are likely to make abortion virtually illegal, as Texas has done.

Keep reading... Show less

Justice Brett Kavanaugh

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments over a Mississippi law banning abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy. The law roundly defies the court's decisions affirming a right to abortion, but the state portrays the ban as the mildest of correctives.

All Mississippi wants the justices to do, insisted state solicitor general Scott Stewart, is defer to "the people." The law, he said, came about because "many, many people vocally really just wanted to have the matter returned to them so that they could decide it — decide it locally, deal with it the way they thought best, and at least have a fighting chance to have their view prevail."

Keep reading... Show less
x
{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}