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Does the U.S. have a budget surplus or a budget deficit?

What is the value of the most recent budget surplus/deficit?

Does the federal government balance its budget?

When is the last time the budget was balanced (or in surplus)?

Expert Answers

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For most of October, 2013, the biggest issue in American politics has been the government shutdown which was caused in part by the desire of many Republicans to avoid raising the limit on the national debt.  The fact that the debt is going up shows that we have been running a federal budget deficit.  This has been a perennial issue in American politics with many people worrying that our deficits are too large and are creating an unsustainable level of debt.

The fact that we are running a deficit makes it clear that the federal government does not balance its budget.  The government has rarely had a balanced budget or a budget in surplus.  For example, I was born in 1970 and the government has only run a surplus in four of the years that I have been alive.  These were the years 1998 through 2001.

With the “war on terror” and then with all of the government spending brought on by the “great recession,” our budget deficits have been very large indeed in recent years.  The deficit was over $1 trillion in each of the last four years and is projected to be slightly under that number this year.  The projection given in this link shows that the deficit for this year is expected to be about $972 billion.

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