[This article follows much of what most Americans think is true about Deficits, Debt, and Interest Rates – I don’t. Please be kind in your comments as you explain what you think the author’s misconceptions are. –Bob]
The federal debt has touched an historical figure in 2020 after the Covid-19 outbreak. It is way more than what the country has tackled since the end of World War II. With the current GDP, the 17.9% federal deficit is also double of what the country had during the great recession in 2009.
Why is there a federal budget deficit?
Even before the fatal Covid-19, the federal budget deficit was large due to recession and the increase in the government’s spending. After Covid-19, the government launched stimulus packages to ease the financial pain of individuals, which meant more expenses. Congress had to spend more on the unemployment benefits, Medicaid, food stamps, etc. On the other hand, the reduced income of the working people, suspension of federal student loan payments, recession, and less tax revenue has led to overall lower government revenue.
The federal budget deficit is the difference between government spending and revenue. In the fiscal year 2019, the federal government’s overall revenue was $3.5 trillion on September 30, 2019. But, the government spent $4,4 trillion, which meant that the total deficit was $984 billion.
If these figures have already made you worried, then hold your heart with your hand for a second. There is a lot more to come. According to the Congressional Budget Office declaration in April 2020, the federal deficit for the fiscial year 2020 will be around $3.7 trillion or 17.9% of projected GDP. If Congress continues to launch more relief plans for the people, then only God knows how much will be the deficit.
The expected federal deficit in 2020 is very large. There is no doubt about it. In the last 50 years, the average deficit has been only 3% of GDP. Even in 2009, the year of the great recession, the federal deficit was 9.8% of GDP. But in 2020, the federal deficit is 17.9% of GDP, a historical figure in itself. The federal deficit was already high before Covid-19 due to the 2017 tax cut. But, the Covid-19 economic impact has stretched the federal deficit to an astronomical figure.
How about the federal debt?
The federal debt is all about how much the government owes to cover the deficit of the previous years. When the government continues to borrow money to cover its budget deficits, it’s debt burden also increases simultaneously. The federal government already owed $16.8 trillion to the foreign and domestic investors on September 30, 2019, including the US Treasury securities too. In June 2020, the same government owed around $20,3 trillion, which is huge.
Between 2007-2009, the federal debt was approximately 35% of GDP. Before the pandemic, the federal debt touched 80% of GDP. And, going by the way the government is borrowing money, it is expected that the federal debt will become 100% of GDP by September 30, 2020. Unless a massive change in the tax or spending policy is introduced, the federal debt is expected to grow and touch a gigantic figure.
Should you be worried about federal debt and deficit?
Honestly speaking, the government can hardly be blamed for the fiasco. The government had to introduce a liberal spending policy to reduce debt problems and consumer bankruptcy in the country. Job cuts, pay cuts, and hour cuts have pushed people into severe financial problems. People don’t even have money to pay off credit card debts or student loans. As such, the government had to bail out people in that sector too. Hence, it had to borrow money like never before.
Should you be worried about the current federal budget deficit and debt? As of now, there is no need to worry about it. The federal government is borrowing money at a super low-interest rate from global financial markets. There is not much competition from the private sectors on the borrowing front. It is not just the US, all countries are borrowing heavily to deal with COVID recession. The global interest rates are rock-bottom low. So, governments are still able to save money.
How much debt can the government handle? How much is too much for the economy? There is no clear answer to these questions. Top economists are also clueless about it. However, if the global interest rates remain this low, then the government can tackle more debts than you can imagine. Yes. The government is indeed borrowing heavily. The debt amount is gigantic. But this increase in the debt amount is mainly due to the abnormal economic situation created by the Covid-19. It is a temporary phase, not a long-run trajectory.
There was speculation that the enormous size of the debt amount would cripple the government’s flexibility if it faced a recession like that of 2009. Fortunately, the government could borrow money promptly during the pandemic. So, even if politicians are skeptical since a huge amount has been borrowed already, the government may continue to take out loans, especially to take advantage of the record low-interest rates. In June 2020, the U.S treasury borrowed money for ten years at an interest rate between 0.625% and 1%. From October 2019 to June 2020, the government’s overall outflow was 10.5% less than in the same period in the last year, even though the government has borrowed more now.
If the current economic policies are changed, then the federal debt and deficit are expected to increase as more people will qualify for Medicare and Social Security. It is projected that by 2030, the federal debt will become 118%. The current debt load is manageable. But it is equally true that healthcare costs are increasing at a faster rate than the national economy. The interest rates will also become normal in the future. So, the government will have to think about the steps to reduce federal debt and deficit in the future.
Author bio: Stacy B. Miller is a writer, blogger, and a content marketing enthusiast. Her blog vents out her opinions on debt, money and financial issues. Her articles have been published in various top-notch websites and she plans to write many more for her readers. You can connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.