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Budget Deficit Goes Into Overdrive

By Morgan Housel - Updated Apr 5, 2017 at 7:01PM

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Hey, who's paying the bills around here?

There's something terribly ironic about a group of Congressmen and -women chastising General Motors (NYSE:GM), Ford (NYSE:F), and Chrysler executives for driving their companies into the ground, when the state of Uncle Sam's balance sheet looks like it does today.

Yesterday, the Treasury Department announced that the federal budget deficit for just the first two months of fiscal year 2009 (which started on Oct. 1) will come in at more than $400 billion. Sure, the deficit is abnormally high thanks to the raising of funds for the TARP program, which propped up banks like Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS), Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), and Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC), but even without the bailout programs, the budget deficit would have still been close to $200 billion. Sheesh!

Going back to 2000 (when we had substantial budget surpluses), here's what a basic income statement of the U.S. government looks like:


Government Receipts

Government Outlays

Budget Surplus (Deficit)


$2,025 billion


$1,789 billion


$236.2 billion



$1,991 billion


$1,863 billion


$128.2 billion



$1,853 billion


$2,011 billion


($157.8) billion



$1,782 billion


$2,160 billion


($377.6) billion



$1,880 billion


$2,293 billion


($412.7) billion



$2,153 billion


$2,472 billion


($318.3) billion



$2,407 billion


$2,655 billion


($248.2) billion



$2,568 billion


$2,728 billion


($160.7) billion



$2,524 billion

$2,979 billion

($455) billion

First 2 Months of Fiscal Year 2009



($401.6) billion

Sources: Congressional Budget Office, U.S. Treasury .

Some of the more daunting budget-deficit estimates for all of 2009 estimate a $1 trillion shortfall. At the rate we're going, we'll be there by Valentine's Day.

It's quite a quagmire: Letting sections of the economy fail causes tax receipts to plunge, but propping up those sectors requires unsustainable spending. Either way, a government that couldn't balance its books when the economy was booming is bound to drown in red ink when it heads into a recession ... not to mention the worst recession in decades.

I'm still confident that a significant portion of the funds injected by the Treasury will eventually be recouped, but seeing numbers like these reminds me why, one year ago today, I wrote an article called "The Impending Destruction of the U.S. Economy."

For related Foolishness:                               

Fool contributor Morgan Housel doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article. Bank of America is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.

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Stocks Mentioned

The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. Stock Quote
The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc.
$353.82 (0.61%) $2.14
Ford Motor Company Stock Quote
Ford Motor Company
$16.18 (2.21%) $0.35
Bank of America Corporation Stock Quote
Bank of America Corporation
$36.30 (1.09%) $0.39
Wells Fargo & Company Stock Quote
Wells Fargo & Company
$45.94 (1.52%) $0.69
General Motors Company Stock Quote
General Motors Company
$39.48 (2.65%) $1.02

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