Annual budget deficits

Donald Trump is on a pace to increase the budget deficit by about 115%. To put that into perspective, Barack Obama increased the budget deficit by 57%, George W. Bush increased it by 57%, Bill Clinton decreased it by 1%, George H.W. Bush increased it by 36%, Ronald Reagan increased it by 142%, Jimmy Carter increased it by 36%, Gerald Ford increased it by 38%. Franklin D. Roosevelt had the highest percentage of increase in the budget deficit by 186%. The U.S. budget deficit by year is how much more the federal government spends than it receives in revenue annually.

President Donald Trump:
Total Actual plus Budgeted = $5.683 trillion, almost as much in one term as Obama accumulated in two.

  • FY 2021 – $916 billion.
  • FY 2020 – $987 billion.
  • FY 2019 – $984 billion.
  • FY 2018 – $833 billion.

President Barack Obama:
Total = $6.785 trillion, a 57 percent increase.

  • FY 2017 – $666 billion. Although Trump requested additional spending, Congress did not approve it.
  • FY 2016 – $585 billion.
  • FY 2015 – $438 billion.
  • FY 2014 – $485 billion.
  • FY 2013 – $679 billion.
  • FY 2012 – $1.087 trillion.
  • FY 2011 – $1.300 trillion.
  • FY 2010 – $1.547 trillion. This is the sum of $1.294 trillion plus $253 billion from the Obama Stimulus Act that was attached to the FY 2009 budget.
President George W. Bush:
Total = $3.293 trillion, a 57 percent increase.
  • FY 2009 – $1.16 trillion. This amount is calculated from $1.413 trillion minus $253 billion from Obama’s Stimulus Act.
  • FY 2008 – $459 billion.
  • FY 2007 – $161 billion.
  • FY 2006 – $248 billion.
  • FY 2005 – $318 billion.
  • FY 2004 – $413 billion.
  • FY 2003 – $378 billion.
  • FY 2002 – $158 billion.
President Bill Clinton:
Total = $63 billion surplus, a 1 percent decrease.
  • FY 2001 – $128 billion surplus.
  • FY 2000 – $236 billion surplus.
  • FY 1999 – $126 billion surplus.
  • FY 1998 – $69 billion surplus.
  • FY 1997 – $22 billion.
  • FY 1996 – $107 billion.
  • FY 1995 – $164 billion.
  • FY 1994 – $203 billion.

President George H.W. Bush:
Total = $1.036 trillion, a 36 percent increase.

  • FY 1993 – $255 billion.
  • FY 1992 – $290 billion.
  • FY 1991 – $269 billion.
  • FY 1990 – $221 billion.

President Ronald Reagan:
Total = $1.412 trillion, a 142 percent increase.

  • FY 1989 – $153 billion.
  • FY 1988 – $155 billion.
  • FY 1987 – $150 billion.
  • FY 1986 – $221 billion.
  • FY 1985 – $212 billion.
  • FY 1984 – $185 billion.
  • FY 1983 – $208 billion.
  • FY 1982 – $128 billion.

President Jimmy Carter:
Total = $253 billion, a 36 percent increase.

  • FY 1981 – $79 billion.
  • FY 1980 – $74 billion.
  • FY 1979 – $41 billion.
  • FY 1978 – $59 billion.

President Gerald Ford:
Total = $181 billion, a 38 percent increase.

  • FY 1977 – $54 billion.
  • FY 1976 – $74 billion.
  • FY 1975 – $53 billion.

President Richard Nixon:
Total = $70 billion, a 20 percent increase.

  • FY 1974 – $6 billion.
  • FY 1973 – $15 billion.
  • FY 1972 – $23 billion.
  • FY 1971 – $23 billion.
  • FY 1970 – $3 billion.

President Lyndon B. Johnson:
Total = $36 billion, an 11 percent increase.

  • FY 1969 – $3 billion surplus.
  • FY 1968 – $25 billion.
  • FY 1967 – $9 billion.
  • FY 1966 – $4 billion.
  • FY 1965 – $1 billion.

President John F. Kennedy:
Total = $18 billion, a 6 percent increase.

  • FY 1964 – $6 billion.
  • FY 1963 – $5 billion.
  • FY 1962 – $7 billion.

President Dwight Eisenhower:
Total = $15 billion, a 6 percent increase.

  • FY 1961 – $3 billion.
  • FY 1960 – $0 billion with a slight surplus.
  • FY 1959 – $13 billion.
  • FY 1958 – $3 billion.
  • FY 1957 – $3 billion surplus.
  • FY 1956 – $4 billion surplus.
  • FY 1955 – $3 billion.
  • FY 1954 – $1 billion.

President Harry Truman:
Total = $5 billion, a 2 percent increase.

  • FY 1953 – $6 billion.
  • FY 1952 – $2 billion.
  • FY 1951 – $6 billion surplus.
  • FY 1950 – $3 billion.
  • FY 1949 – $1 billion surplus.
  • FY 1948 – $12 billion surplus.
  • FY 1947 – $4 billion surplus.
  • FY 1946 – $16 billion.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt:
Total = $194 billion, a 186 percent increase.

  • FY 1945 – $48 billion.
  • FY 1944 – $48 billion.
  • FY 1943 – $55 billion.
  • FY 1942 – $21 billion.
  • FY 1941 – $5 billion.
  • FY 1940 – $3 billion.
  • FY 1939 – $3 billion.
  • FY 1938 – $0 billion with a slight deficit.
  • FY 1937 – $2 billion.
  • FY 1936 – $4 billion.
  • FY 1935 – $3 billion.
  • FY 1934 – $4 billion.

Deficit Trends

The deficit should be compared to the country’s ability to pay it back.

That ability is measured by gross domestic product. For example, the deficit in 1945 was only $48 billion. But it was 20.8 percent of total economic output as the country geared up for World War II. The record-setting 2009 deficit was only 9.8 percent of GDP. That seems more reasonable when compared to the 1945 deficit. But it’s still much higher than the average of between 2 percent to 4 percent.

Each year’s deficit adds to the national debt. That comparison is called the debt-to-GDP ratio. If the ratio is more than 77 percent, then the country reaches a tipping point. That’s where lenders start worrying whether it’s safe to buy the country’s bonds. High deficits push the country toward that tipping point.

Since 1987, the deficit has been a lot less than the increase in the debt. Congress began borrowing from a surplus in the Social Security Trust Fund. The surplus was created by the baby boomer generation.

While they were in their 20s and 30s, there were more working people than retirees. Their payroll tax contributions were greater than Social Security spending.  The Fund invested the extra revenue in bonds. Congress spent that so it wouldn’t have to issue as many new Treasury notes.

Deficit by Year Since 1929

In the table below, the deficit is compared to the increase in the debt, nominal GDP, and national events since 1929.

Please note that the debt and GDP are given as of the end of the third quarter, specifically September 30, in each year. That coincides with the budget deficit’s fiscal year. But GDP in the years up to 1947 are not available for the third quarter, so year-end figures are used.

U.S. Deficit Since 1929 Compared to Increase in Debt, Deficit/GDP, and Major Events

Fiscal Year  Deficit   (in billions) Debt Increase (by FY)  Deficit /GDP Events Affecting Deficit
1929 ($1) ($1)  (0.7%) Market crash.
1930 ($1) ($1)  (0.8%) Smoot-Hawley.
1931 $0 $1   0.6% Dust Bowl.
1932 $3 $3   4.5% Hoover tax hike.
1933 $3 $3   4.5% FDR New Deal.
1934 $4 $5   5.4% GDP up 10.8%.
1935 $3 $2   3.8% Social Security. WPA.
1936 $4 $5   5.1% Tax hikes renewed depression.
1937 $2 $3   2.4%
1938 $0 $1   0.1% Depression ended.
1939 $3 $3   3.0% Dust Bowl ended.
1940 $3 $3   2.8% Defense increased.
1941 $5 $6   3.8% Pearl Harbor.
1942 $21 $23  12.3% Defense tripled.
1943 $55 $64  26.9%
1944 $48 $64  21.2% Bretton-Woods.
1945 $48 $58  20.8% WWII ended.
1946 $16 $11   7.0% Recession.
1947 ($4) ($11)  (1.6%) Cold War.
1948 ($12) ($6)  (4.2%) Recession.
1949 ($1) $0  (0.2%)
1950 $3 $5   1.0% Korean War.
1951 ($6) ($2)  (1.7%)
1952 $2 $4   0.4%
1953 $6 $7   1.7% Korean War ended.
1954 $1 $5   0.3% Recession.
1955 $3 $3   0.7%
1956 ($4) ($2)  (0.9%)
1957 ($3) ($2)  (0.7%) Recession.
1958 $3 $6   0.6%
1959 $13 $8   2.4% Fed raised rates.
1960 $0 $2  (0.1%) Recession.
1961 $3 $3   0.6% JFK & Bay of Pigs.
1962 $7 $10   1.2% Cuban Missile Crisis.
1963 $5 $7   0.7% U.S. aids Vietnam.  JFK killed.
1964 $6 $6   0.9% LBJ War on Poverty.
1965 $1 $6   0.2% Medicare. Medicaid.
1966 $4 $3   0.5% Vietnam War.
1967 $9 $6   1.0%
1968 $25 $21   2.6% Moon landing.
1969 ($3) $6  (0.3%) Nixon took office.
1970 $3 $17   0.3% Recession.
1971 $23 $27   2.0% Wage price controls.
1972 $23 $29   1.8% Stagflation.
1973 $15 $31   1.0% End of gold standard.
1974 $6 $17   0.4% Budget process created.
1975 $53 $58   3.1% First Ford budget.
1976 $74 $87   3.9% Stagflation.
1977 $54 $78   2.5% Stagflation.
1978 $59 $73   2.5% First Carter budget.
1979 $41 $55   1.5% Volcker raised rates to 20%.
1980 $74 $81   2.6% Recession. Iran oil embargo.
1981 $79 $90   2.4% Reagan tax cut.
1982 $128 $144   3.8% Reagan’s 1st budget.
1983 $208 $235   5.6% Jobless rate 10.8%.
1984 $185 $195   4.5% Increased defense spending.
1985 $212 $256   4.8%
1986 $221 $297   4.8% Tax cut.
1987 $150 $225   3.1% Market crash
1988 $155 $252   2.9% Fed raised rates.
1989 $153 $255   2.7% S&L Crisis.
1990 $221 $376   3.7% Desert Storm.
1991 $269 $432   4.3% Recession.
1992 $290 $399   4.4%
1993 $255 $347   3.7% Clinton signed Balanced Budget Act.
1994 $203 $281   2.8% First Clinton budget.
1995 $164 $281   2.1%
1996 $107 $251   1.3% Welfare reform.
1997 $22 $188   0.3%
1998 ($69) $113  (0.8%) LTCM crisis.
1999 ($126) $130  (1.3%) Glass-Steagall repealed.
2000 ($236) $18  (2.3%) Surplus.
2001 ($128) $133  (1.2%) 9/11 attacks. EGTRRA.
2002 $158 $421   1.4% War on Terror.
2003 $378 $555   3.3% JGTRRA.
2004 $413 $596   3.4%
2005 $318 $554   2.4% Katrina. Bankruptcy Act.
2006 $248 $574   1.8% Bernanke chairs Fed.
2007 $161 $501   1.1% Iraq War cost.
2008 $459 $1,017   3.1% Bank bailout. QE.
2009 $1,413 $1,632   9.8% Stimulus Act.
2010 $1,294 $1,905   8.6% Obama tax cuts. ACA. Simpson-Bowles.
2011 $1,300 $1,229   8.3% Debt crisis.
2012 $1,087 $1,276   6.7% Fiscal cliff.
2013 $679 $672   4.0% Sequester. Government shutdown.
2014 $485 $1,086   2.7% Debt ceiling.
2015 $438 $327   2.4% Defense = $736.4 b.
2016 $585 $1,423   3.1% Defense = $767.3 b.
2017 $665 $672   3.4% Defense = $812.3 b.
2018 $833 $1,271   4.0% Defense = $824.7 b.
2019(est) $984 $1,187   NA
2020 (est) $987 $1,198   NA
2021 (est) $916 $1,119   NA

https://www.thebalance.com/us-deficit-by-year-3306306

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