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2013 Review: Lingering Deficits Despite Record Revenue

by Michael Tasselmyer / /

As the budget committee debates how it will reach a long-term deal by the December 13 deadline, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has been compiling the numbers behind the 2013 Fiscal Year, which ended just over a month ago. CBO's recent report ("Summary For Fiscal Year 2013") shows that for the first time since 2008, the U.S. Government ran a deficit of less than $1 trillion, as it spent $680 billion more than it collected.

The small "victory" that is a smaller deficit was accomplished largely thanks to increased tax revenues. Although federal outlays in 2013 were $84 billion less than the totals in 2012, the government collected $325 billion more in taxes than it did in 2012, which means that the growth in tax revenue was over four times as much as any reduction in federal spending.

The report also confirmed that spending on entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare all continued to grow at a rapid pace, even as spending on other programs related to defense and unemployment benefits declined. Those three entitlement programs each grew by over five percent, with spending on Social Security benefits breaching the $800 billion mark. The spending on these programs in Fiscal Year 2013 represented over 9 percent of GDP.

The numbers suggest that, as NTUF has pointed out before, entitlement reform will have to be revisited as a debt- and deficit-reduction measure as spending on these programs continues to offset not only the highest tax revenues Washington has had to work with in years, but significant cuts to defense spending in the wake of sequestration caps. As the latest BillTally report shows, however, Congress has seemingly lost some of its focus on finding ways to reduce spending: through the first six months of 2013, Congress proposed $3.83 in additional spending for every dollar they proposed to cut, and healthcare-related legislation was the costliest in both Chambers.