Debt and Deficits

This Is What a Government Going Broke Looks Like


Revenues vs. Spending

Do you ever get the impression that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is trying to tell us something?

The CBO publishes numeous reports on matters financial regarding the government. Many of the recent ones have been full of fairly downbeat verbiage, with the word "unsustainable" appearing a lot. As in, the federal government spends a whole lot more money than it collects, and that continuing nasty habit is unsustainable.

But we're simple folk. People of the land. You know, morons. So, the CBO releases its information in picture-book format, too (they nicely call it an "infographic").

Take a look at the image at the above right. It shows 2013 revenues at $2.8 trillion, and spending at $3.5 trillion.

There's a gap between those numbers. It's a big gap. And while it varies in size, it appears year after year with little respite. (Click image for full-size version.)

Federal deficits

And because the federal government keeps spending more than it takes in, year after year, federal debt has "reached 72% of GDP, the highest level in more than 60 years. Such debt could have serious negative consequences, including restraining long-term economic growth, giving policymakers less flexibility to respond to unexpected challenges, and eventually increasing the risk of a fiscal crisis," as the CBO puts it.

And the government can't start paying that down while continuing to spend more than it takes in.

But wait! Let's try the whole thing in pictures. Scary pictures. (Click image for full-size version.)

Budget and deficits

NEXT: The Most Interesting Man in Buzzfeed's Paul Ryan Profile Is Not Paul Ryan

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  1. +1 Waco Kid

  2. The “deficit as pct GDP” bullshit I don’t need.

    How about they start with a graphic that shows the height of the deficit in $1000 bills stacked on top of each other. Real life size – y’know, the one with a legend that says “1 Mile = 1 Mile”.

    How tall would that stack o’ bills be?

    Also, I like the “this is how much it is divided into the population – each person owes $X”….or, better yet, “Of the population who actually pays federal taxes, which is getting to be damned few people, here’s how much each of THEM owe to pay this off…”

    Now THAT’S scary. % GDP? Fuck off.

    1. $1000 bills? No such thing.

      A $20 in my wallet is about 5 thousandths of an inch thick. $17.5 trillion is 17.5 billion $1000 bills so about 1381 miles tall of hypothetical $1000 bills. That’s a big graphic.

  3. Wonder what those figures are gonna look like next time a recession hits and/or when interest rates rise.

    1. I predict…dooooooooooooooooom.

    2. Interest rates will always be favorable, and besides, we’ve got plenty of checks! Or we could mint a 17 trillion dollar coin.

  4. We all pay the iron price.

    1. What the fuck is Vargo Hoat doing at the Wall?

      1. What the fuck is Bran doing at Craster’s?

        /every person who read the books, so fuck FoE

      2. His name is Locke, rhymes with cock.

  5. Clinton surplus! Derp! Derp!


    1. It upsets the Peanuts here. Then they go into all kinds of denial exercises.

      1. Someday when you finally pass your GED exams, see if your local community college offers some sort of certificate program in bookkeeping. That’ll at least get you to a point where you have marginal comprehension of basic information when the topic is discussed.

          1. At a June 1 campaign event, Clinton touted his fiscal record in the final years of his presidency. “Then I gave you four surplus budgets for the first time in more than 70 years, paid $600 billion down on the national debt,” Clinton told the crowd.

            Clinton delivered four consecutive surplus budgets for the first time in more than seven decades, but the former president misstated the level of debt reduction. During those four fiscal years, the debt held by the public dropped by nearly $453 billion, but total debt jumped by about $400 billion.

            We rate the statement Mostly True.

            That’s an assertion. Which is kinda like data, only without all the pain in the ass of the numeracy and analysis. You’ve been thoroughly told on this talking point about 453 billion times (cwutididthar?), so there’s no point rehashing it.

          2. Palin’s Buttplug|4.29.14 @ 2:21PM|#
            “Nope, all the data backs me up.”

            So someone else is stupid enough to think paying $5 on you credit card means you’ve got a surplus.

            1. I made the minimum payment!! I’m reeech, beeeetch!!!

      2. I agree with your preference for divided govt consisting of a moderate dem POTUS and frugal GOP majority congress, and I think that generally serves managing the public fisc the best.

        That said, the surplus of the late 90’s was largely artificial because it still borrowed money from SS and replaced it with govt bonds, namely IOUs that it will presumably have to repay (notwithstanding that said debt is to itself). That’s not semantic quibbling, that’s a reality that the budget of those years was not if fact “balanced” (even if it was closer to balance than anything seen since the late 1950’s and more balanced than any monstrosity witnessed since).

        1. Bear in mind, too, that Gingrich likes to take full credit for the imaginary surplus as well, being one third of the triumvirate responsible for its fabrication in the public consciousness; yet you will rarely find Shreeek mention that or give any credit. It’s almost like he’s a mendacious partisan hack with even fewer scruples than he has brains.

      3. Palin’s Buttplug|4.29.14 @ 1:52PM|#
        “It upsets the Peanuts here.”

        It’s a lie.

        1. Yeah, the treasury depts website says it never happened. Good enough for me.

          And even more so under gaap.

      4. So that makes you Lucy?

  6. Thank God we have a Father-Protector who hath said “I will go line by line to make sure that we are not spending money unwisely”…

    1. It’s worse. He found we weren’t spending enough wisely.

      1. It’s even worse than that. He wisely found that we weren’t spending enough.

        1. Winner winner, chicken dinner! Oops, that’s racist. Apologies.

  7. The report is clearly flawed – there is no such thing as “Manditory” spending. Especially since I doubt that is such things as debt repayments and interest is clearly listed separately.

    1. The law is settled!

  8. “No, fuck you, cut spending.”

    Odd that this phrase hasn’t been added to the GOP platform. Don’t they want to be the party of fiscal sanity? Or are they suicidal, too?

    Don’t answer that question.

    1. When they start acting like that’s a plank in their platform, I might start voting for them again.

      1. Well, they want to spend money we don’t have, too, quite obviously. If that weren’t the case, the commonsense, not-insane-and-suicidal position could be theirs. Which I think would be quite popular, now.

    2. Nope, they just make noises about spending and keep the party in line w/ noises about gays and abortion.

    3. That phrase is the first plank of my 2016 presidential campaign.

      Yes, I stole it. I may or may not give attribution.

      Thank you.

      1. I may or may not give attribution.

        Almanian is Rand Paul?

        1. I’m perfectly happy to get limited government, free markets, and more freedom in general for a few infringed-upon aphorisms.

      2. Almanian!|4.29.14 @ 1:55PM|#
        “That phrase is the first plank of my 2016 presidential campaign.”

        If I don’t see the name, I’ll write it in.

    4. They accidentally copied it over as “No spending cut, fuck you!”

      1. This is the winner. Everybody go home.

        1. Or maybe back to work.

          Someone’s gotta fund all that sweet lucre right?

          1. You, uh… you don’t get the check every month? IMPOSTERRRRRRRR!!

      2. Well, there’s a failure to communicate.

  9. Balanced budget amendment, no borrowing? Want a pony, pay for it.

    1. The BBA will be ‘interpreted’ just like the 9th and 10th. If they obeyed the constitution, amending it wouldn’t be necessary. As they don’t obey it, amending it is pointless.

      Make the govt pay for everything in gold. That should keep it in line.

      1. Make the govt pay for everything in gold. That should keep it in line.

        I could live with this as well.

      2. You are entirely unfamiliar with the Opium Wars and the Tea trade?

        1. And the later Roman Empire, too.

          1. OK, ok, they can pay with minutes in the Agonizer Booth (10 min for each $1 mil they each vote to spend) where we electrically stimulate every pain nerve ending in their bodies.

  10. I feel bad for the poor bastard in the CBO who made those charts. “How do I get people to realize that spending money they don’t have is bad?” Not realizing that we’re far too stupid to understand. As a famous future historian wrote about our era:

    It was the dumbest of times, it was the stupidest of times, it was the age of idiocy, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief in stupid shit, it was the epoch of belief in even stupider shit.

  11. Note that the chart doesn’t even include the $328 billion that Jack Lew was shell-gaming before the debt ceiling was increased.

    Throw that in, and the deficit goes above $1 trillion again.

  12. I read an article somewhere that said something to the tune of, “Children routinely exhibit behavior that, in an adult, would be indicative of severe mental illness.” Our government (and many others, to be fair) consistently ignores the most basic truths of economics in ways that, in an individual, would bring about financial ruin and probably a great deal of ridicule.

  13. I want to type GAAP GAAP GAAP ETC like I do with coase but its hard on myvphone.

  14. Of course this is just the “hard debt”; when one includes the “accrual debt” for unfunded defined benefit plans (SS, Medicare, etc) it gets really crazy – a minimum of another $50,000,000,000,000 PRESENT VALUE that would have to be sunk today to fund the plans, given the projected expenditures over current expected tax inflow (some estimates are significantly more).

    It amazes me how much bullshit both major parties bloviate about, and media that carries their idiocy, and the most critical issue we have is fiscal policy (which in turn drives monetary policy and economic policy and “expeditionary force” policy). We get eyewash about cakes for queers (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and what the big sport owner meanie said, etc.

    1. cont.

      As I pointed out in the Reagan/Carter comment sections, the last best chance for a relatively painless ramping down of the idiocy of the New Deal and Great Society was in the 80’s, and all we got was redirection via “credit cards”. The early 2000’s was the last best chance to take our painful medicine for 20 years of stupidity, but we simply doubled down on the credit card thing, and by the end of the 2000’s we quintupled down on the credit cards and we are maxed out. No more interest manipulation, no more huge borrowing, and only so much more monetary debasement without hyper-inflation as the result. We’re in for a whole world of pain, and while we talk about the NAP and the rest of the philosophies, the table has been set for hardliners to give it to us good and hard in the very near future. And there’ll be more than enough people to either execute it or stand idly by while the inevitable persecutions of whichever scapegoat is triangulated the fastest – depending on which style hardliners get installed. I cannot see a way through the last 100 years of lunacy without a dark passage through a hardline-hell.

  15. “mandatory” my ass

    1. Nothing left to cut.

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