Deficit, debt rising in the Trump era

The size of the federal budget deficit will rise higher for the next eight years due to recent tax and spending legislation, crossing the $1 trillion mark by 2020.

The size of the federal budget deficit will rise over the next decade, in part due to recent tax and spending legislation, crossing the $1 trillion mark by 2020, according to new projections by the Congressional Budget Office.

In addition, the national debt, as measured by what is owed to the public, will nearly double, rising from $14.7 trillion in fiscal year 2017 to $28.7 trillion in 2029 according to the CBO, a nonpartisan office in Congress that produces independent analyses of budgetary and economic issues to support the Congressional budget process.

The deficit, now that the tax cut and new budget are settled

In April 2018, the CBO published revised deficit projections taking into account the new tax law and the budget and appropriations bills approved by Congress. This combination of legislation decreased the federal government’s anticipated revenue and increased estimated expenditures, which modified the CBO's deficit forecast as initially published in June 2017. It is anticipated that the federal government's outlays will continue to exceed receipts continuing a deficit trend over the next decade. Below, current deficit projections from the April 2018 report are in green while the projections up to 2027 that were made in June 2017 are in gray. The bar in 2017 represents the actual deficit.

History: Budget Deficits and Surpluses by President

For the past 40 fiscal years, there have been 36 deficits and four surpluses, the surpluses occurring in the second Clinton administration. Historically, it is not typical for the deficit to significantly expand outside of a recession, depression, or war. Here are the budget balances by fiscal year and presidential administration. Since the federal government's fiscal year begins on Oct. 1, there is some administration overlap. For example, the 2017 fiscal year budget was worked out under President Barack Obama and went into effect three and a half months before President Donald Trump took office. Click on the bars for details.

The budget balance, by who was president at beginning of each fiscal year

  • Carter
  • Reagan
  • GH Bush
  • Clinton
  • GW Bush
  • Obama
  • Trump (projected)
  • Spending too much, taking in too little

    Another way of seeing the deficits and surpluses is to track the federal government's revenue (the green area) and spending (the red line). When spending exceeds revenue, the result is a deficit.

    Revenue and spending, actual and projected

    • Revenue
    • Spending
    • Projected

    Running Deficits, Increasing Debt

    The CBO's latest projections estimate that debt held by the public, which is the government's debt owed to individuals, companies, local governments, foreign entities, and Federal Reserve Banks, will continue to increase over the next decade. Current projections estimate that the debt will rise to nearly $28.7 trillion by the end of 2028. Publicly held debt differs from gross federal debt which includes funds the government owes itself, or intragovernmental debt.

    Total debt, in $ trillions

    • Actual
    • Projected

    Interest on debt

    Just like a personal loan, the government pays interest on the money it borrows. The CBO projects that the net interest paid on its debt will nearly triple over the next decade from an estimated $316 billion in 2018 to $915 billion in 2028. A presumed climb in interest rates over the next few years factors in the exponential growth rate.


    Debt as a percentage of GDP

    The GDP, or gross domestic product, measures the value the goods and services produced by a country in a given period of time and indicates economic output. Some economists use as a gauge the national debt as a percentage of the GDP, and it has grown steadily after the 2008 recession. The CBO predicts the debt will rise to nearly 100 percent of the nation's GDP by 2028, which is the highest amount of debt relative to the size of the economy in the United States since 1946. The CBO cautions that growing debt can result in negative consequences such as less flexibility to respond to unexpected challenges and the risk of investors being unwilling to finance the government's borrowing.

    The actual figures, 1968 to 2017

    This table includes revenue and outlays, which when combined result in a budget balance (surplus or deficit). In addition there are figures for the deficit or surplus from the Social Security system and the Postal Service, which are factored into the total deficit/surplus column. The "debt held by the public" column details money owed by the government to those outside the government, but not debt the government owes to itself, such as interagency debt. That "gross" debt is already more than $20 trillion.

    Figures in this table are in billions of dollars, and the few cells that contain an asterisk represent amounts between -$50 million and $50 million.

    year revenue outlays 'On budget' balance Social Security balance Postal Service balance Total deficit Debt held by public
    year 1968 revenue $153.0 outlays $178.1 'On budget' balance $-27.7 Social Security balance $2.6 Postal Service balance n.a. Total deficit $-25.2 Debt held by public $289.5
    year 1969 revenue $186.9 outlays $183.6 'On budget' balance $-0.5 Social Security balance $3.7 Postal Service balance n.a. Total deficit $3.2 Debt held by public $278.1
    year 1970 revenue $192.8 outlays $195.6 'On budget' balance $-8.7 Social Security balance $5.9 Postal Service balance n.a. Total deficit $-2.8 Debt held by public $283.2
    year 1971 revenue $187.1 outlays $210.2 'On budget' balance $-26.1 Social Security balance $3.0 Postal Service balance n.a. Total deficit $-23.0 Debt held by public $303.0
    year 1972 revenue $207.3 outlays $230.7 'On budget' balance $-26.1 Social Security balance $3.1 Postal Service balance $-0.4 Total deficit $-23.4 Debt held by public $322.4
    year 1973 revenue $230.8 outlays $245.7 'On budget' balance $-15.2 Social Security balance $0.5 Postal Service balance $-0.2 Total deficit $-14.9 Debt held by public $340.9
    year 1974 revenue $263.2 outlays $269.4 'On budget' balance $-7.2 Social Security balance $1.8 Postal Service balance $-0.8 Total deficit $-6.1 Debt held by public $343.7
    year 1975 revenue $279.1 outlays $332.3 'On budget' balance $-54.1 Social Security balance $2.0 Postal Service balance $-1.1 Total deficit $-53.2 Debt held by public $394.7
    year 1976 revenue $298.1 outlays $371.8 'On budget' balance $-69.4 Social Security balance $-3.2 Postal Service balance $-1.1 Total deficit $-73.7 Debt held by public $477.4
    year 1977 revenue $355.6 outlays $409.2 'On budget' balance $-49.9 Social Security balance $-3.9 Postal Service balance $0.2 Total deficit $-53.7 Debt held by public $549.1
    year 1978 revenue $399.6 outlays $458.7 'On budget' balance $-55.4 Social Security balance $-4.3 Postal Service balance $0.5 Total deficit $-59.2 Debt held by public $607.1
    year 1979 revenue $463.3 outlays $504.0 'On budget' balance $-39.6 Social Security balance $-2.0 Postal Service balance $0.9 Total deficit $-40.7 Debt held by public $640.3
    year 1980 revenue $517.1 outlays $590.9 'On budget' balance $-73.1 Social Security balance $-1.1 Postal Service balance $0.4 Total deficit $-73.8 Debt held by public $711.9
    year 1981 revenue $599.3 outlays $678.2 'On budget' balance $-73.9 Social Security balance $-5.0 Postal Service balance $-0.1 Total deficit $-79.0 Debt held by public $789.4
    year 1982 revenue $617.8 outlays $745.7 'On budget' balance $-120.6 Social Security balance $-7.9 Postal Service balance $0.6 Total deficit $-128.0 Debt held by public $924.6
    year 1983 revenue $600.6 outlays $808.4 'On budget' balance $-207.7 Social Security balance $0.2 Postal Service balance $-0.3 Total deficit $-207.8 Debt held by public $1,137.3
    year 1984 revenue $666.4 outlays $851.8 'On budget' balance $-185.3 Social Security balance $0.3 Postal Service balance $-0.4 Total deficit $-185.4 Debt held by public $1,307.0
    year 1985 revenue $734.0 outlays $946.3 'On budget' balance $-221.5 Social Security balance $9.4 Postal Service balance $-0.1 Total deficit $-212.3 Debt held by public $1,507.3
    year 1986 revenue $769.2 outlays $990.4 'On budget' balance $-237.9 Social Security balance $16.7 Postal Service balance * Total deficit $-221.2 Debt held by public $1,740.6
    year 1987 revenue $854.3 outlays $1,004.0 'On budget' balance $-168.4 Social Security balance $19.6 Postal Service balance $-0.9 Total deficit $-149.7 Debt held by public $1,889.8
    year 1988 revenue $909.2 outlays $1,064.4 'On budget' balance $-192.3 Social Security balance $38.8 Postal Service balance $-1.7 Total deficit $-155.2 Debt held by public $2,051.6
    year 1989 revenue $991.1 outlays $1,143.7 'On budget' balance $-205.4 Social Security balance $52.4 Postal Service balance $0.3 Total deficit $-152.6 Debt held by public $2,190.7
    year 1990 revenue $1,032.0 outlays $1,253.0 'On budget' balance $-277.6 Social Security balance $58.2 Postal Service balance $-1.6 Total deficit $-221.0 Debt held by public $2,411.6
    year 1991 revenue $1,055.0 outlays $1,324.2 'On budget' balance $-321.4 Social Security balance $53.5 Postal Service balance $-1.3 Total deficit $-269.2 Debt held by public $2,689.0
    year 1992 revenue $1,091.2 outlays $1,381.5 'On budget' balance $-340.4 Social Security balance $50.7 Postal Service balance $-0.7 Total deficit $-290.3 Debt held by public $2,999.7
    year 1993 revenue $1,154.3 outlays $1,409.4 'On budget' balance $-300.4 Social Security balance $46.8 Postal Service balance $-1.4 Total deficit $-255.1 Debt held by public $3,248.4
    year 1994 revenue $1,258.6 outlays $1,461.8 'On budget' balance $-258.8 Social Security balance $56.8 Postal Service balance $-1.1 Total deficit $-203.2 Debt held by public $3,433.1
    year 1995 revenue $1,351.8 outlays $1,515.7 'On budget' balance $-226.4 Social Security balance $60.4 Postal Service balance $2.0 Total deficit $-164.0 Debt held by public $3,604.4
    year 1996 revenue $1,453.1 outlays $1,560.5 'On budget' balance $-174.0 Social Security balance $66.4 Postal Service balance $0.2 Total deficit $-107.4 Debt held by public $3,734.1
    year 1997 revenue $1,579.2 outlays $1,601.1 'On budget' balance $-103.2 Social Security balance $81.3 Postal Service balance * Total deficit $-21.9 Debt held by public $3,772.3
    year 1998 revenue $1,721.7 outlays $1,652.5 'On budget' balance $-29.9 Social Security balance $99.4 Postal Service balance $-0.2 Total deficit $69.3 Debt held by public $3,721.1
    year 1999 revenue $1,827.5 outlays $1,701.8 'On budget' balance $1.9 Social Security balance $124.7 Postal Service balance $-1.0 Total deficit $125.6 Debt held by public $3,632.4
    year 2000 revenue $2,025.2 outlays $1,789.0 'On budget' balance $86.4 Social Security balance $151.8 Postal Service balance $-2.0 Total deficit $236.2 Debt held by public $3,409.8
    year 2001 revenue $1,991.1 outlays $1,862.8 'On budget' balance $-32.4 Social Security balance $163.0 Postal Service balance $-2.3 Total deficit $128.2 Debt held by public $3,319.6
    year 2002 revenue $1,853.1 outlays $2,010.9 'On budget' balance $-317.4 Social Security balance $159.0 Postal Service balance $0.7 Total deficit $-157.8 Debt held by public $3,540.4
    year 2003 revenue $1,782.3 outlays $2,159.9 'On budget' balance $-538.4 Social Security balance $155.6 Postal Service balance $5.2 Total deficit $-377.6 Debt held by public $3,913.4
    year 2004 revenue $1,880.1 outlays $2,292.8 'On budget' balance $-568.0 Social Security balance $151.1 Postal Service balance $4.1 Total deficit $-412.7 Debt held by public $4,295.5
    year 2005 revenue $2,153.6 outlays $2,472.0 'On budget' balance $-493.6 Social Security balance $173.5 Postal Service balance $1.8 Total deficit $-318.3 Debt held by public $4,592.2
    year 2006 revenue $2,406.9 outlays $2,655.1 'On budget' balance $-434.5 Social Security balance $185.2 Postal Service balance $1.1 Total deficit $-248.2 Debt held by public $4,829.0
    year 2007 revenue $2,568.0 outlays $2,728.7 'On budget' balance $-342.2 Social Security balance $186.5 Postal Service balance $-5.1 Total deficit $-160.7 Debt held by public $5,035.1
    year 2008 revenue $2,524.0 outlays $2,982.5 'On budget' balance $-641.8 Social Security balance $185.7 Postal Service balance $-2.4 Total deficit $-458.6 Debt held by public $5,803.1
    year 2009 revenue $2,105.0 outlays $3,517.7 'On budget' balance $-1,549.7 Social Security balance $137.3 Postal Service balance $-0.3 Total deficit $-1,412.7 Debt held by public $7,544.7
    year 2010 revenue $2,162.7 outlays $3,457.1 'On budget' balance $-1,371.4 Social Security balance $81.7 Postal Service balance $-4.7 Total deficit $-1,294.4 Debt held by public $9,018.9
    year 2011 revenue $2,303.5 outlays $3,603.1 'On budget' balance $-1,366.8 Social Security balance $68.0 Postal Service balance $-0.8 Total deficit $-1,299.6 Debt held by public $10,128.2
    year 2012 revenue $2,450.0 outlays $3,536.9 'On budget' balance $-1,148.9 Social Security balance $64.6 Postal Service balance $-2.7 Total deficit $-1,087.0 Debt held by public $11,281.1
    year 2013 revenue $2,775.1 outlays $3,454.6 'On budget' balance $-719.0 Social Security balance $37.6 Postal Service balance $1.9 Total deficit $-679.5 Debt held by public $11,982.7
    year 2014 revenue $3,021.5 outlays $3,506.1 'On budget' balance $-514.1 Social Security balance $27.0 Postal Service balance $2.5 Total deficit $-484.6 Debt held by public $12,779.9
    year 2015 revenue $3,249.9 outlays $3,688.4 'On budget' balance $-465.8 Social Security balance $25.6 Postal Service balance $1.7 Total deficit $-438.5 Debt held by public $13,116.7
    year 2016 revenue $3,268.0 outlays $3,852.6 'On budget' balance $-620.2 Social Security balance $34.1 Postal Service balance $1.4 Total deficit $-584.7 Debt held by public $14,167.6
    year 2017 revenue $3,316.2 outlays $3,981.6 'On budget' balance $-714.8 Social Security balance $47.1 Postal Service balance $2.3 Total deficit $-665.4 Debt held by public $14,665.5

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