Confronted with the recent announcement of a $1.4 trillion deficit for fiscal year 2009, The Wash Post suggests it's the latter:
Today's deficits, though smaller as a percentage of gross domestic product than the post-World War II deficits that the U.S. economy ultimately weathered, may be more difficult to unwind. Defense spending was the sole cause of the World War II deficits; it totaled 90 percent of federal outlays in 1945. At war's end, the United States demobilized, moving from a deficit of 22 percent of GDP in 1945 to a surplus of 1.2 percent of GDP in 1947—a swing of nearly one-quarter of GDP in just two years. By contrast, as data compiled by Michael Cembalest of J.P. Morgan show, today's federal spending is driven by mandatory programs: In 2016, entitlements and interest will make up 69 percent of the budget (with defense accounting for 18 percent). These are not only hard to cut quickly; they also have a way of growing unexpectedly. Crushing the Axis powers might seem like a cakewalk next to taking on the lobbies that defend Medicare, Medicaid, farm subsidies, Social Security and the rest.
Reason.tv explains "Budget Deficits for Dummies," below (and notes that the Obama admin has estimated next year's deficit will be another…$1.4 trillion).