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Previewing the New Obama Budget

Saturday February 11th, 2012   •   Posted by Craig Eyermann at 9:10am PST   •  

USA Today reports that the difference between what the federal government under President Obama will have spent in 2012 and how much it will collect in taxes and other revenue sources will be $1.33 trillion:

The budget, an outline of which was released by the White House Friday night, will show a higher deficit this year than in 2011, up from $1.3 trillion to $1.33 trillion.

To help put those values in perspective, the value of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the United States in the third quarter of 2011, which coincides with the end of the U.S. federal government’s fiscal year on September 30, 2011, was $15.176 trillion dollars. The $1.3 trillion federal government budget deficit in 2011 then accounts for 8.6%, or nearly 1 out of ever 12 dollars, of the entire U.S. economy.

Wasteful Spending

Source: Representative Virginia Foxx

Meanwhile, the total public debt outstanding of the United States was $14.790 trillion on September 30, 2011. That means that in just 2011, the federal government under President Obama added over 9.6% of the amount of the U.S. national debt it itself.

If President Obama’s projections for 2012 holds, the size of the national debt will increase to $16.120 trillion by the end of the U.S. federal government’s fiscal year on September 30, 2012. The addition of that $1.33 trillion deficit in 2012 will then mark the addition of an amount equal to 9.0% of the value of the national debt at the beginning of the federal government’s fiscal year to itself, an increase over the previous year.

According to ScotiaBank’s February 2, 2012 global forecast update , the most recent economic forecast we can find, the U.S. economy will grow by 3.4% in 2012. That would put the nominal size of the United States’ GDP at the end of the third quarter of 2012 at $15.692 trillion.

That means that by September 30, 2012, the United States’ national debt will have grown to be nearly 103% of its national income.

Going into 2013 however, President Obama proposes to begin reducing the size of the federal government’s annual budget deficit. USA Today reports:

President Obama’s proposed 2013 budget will forecast a $901 billion deficit for next year, falling far short of his goal to halve the deficit in four years.


The budget, an outline of which was released by the White House Friday night, will show a higher deficit this year than in 2011, up from $1.3 trillion to $1.33 trillion.

In addition, the projected decline to $901 billion in 2013 is dependent on enactment of the president’s policies, including spending reductions agreed to last summer and ending George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy at the end of this year.

That assumes, of course, that the federal government will be capable of collecting all the increase in taxes that President Obama projects. Its historical track record suggests otherwise.

But there will be potentially severe economic consequences for adopting President Obama’s tax hike-based deficit reduction strategy. According to Goldman Sachs, the investment banking firm that has seen many of its employees also put time in at the U.S. Treasury Department on a revolving door basis, that may not be such a hot idea. The commentary below is from October 2011, before President Obama’s 2% payroll tax cut was extended for two months into 2012 at the end of the year. Given the tight interlinking of Goldman Sachs personnel and the Obama administration, the view expressed might be considered to be the administration’s point of view:

Given the fiscal outlook remains difficult, we believe we’re unlikely to get further stimulus, and that government will continue to be a modest drag on growth. We believe we will see an increase in the rate of fiscal tightening at the federal level over the next couple of years.

Fiscal policy was a boost in 2009, roughly neutral in 2010, and in 2011, roughly a 1 percentage point drag.

In 2012, the impact depends on upcoming policy decisions. At best from a short-term perspective, if the Obama administration’s package passed, which seems quite unlikely, fiscal drag would be neutralized; at worst, if all temporary stimulus expires, we’d expect a fiscal drag of more than 1 1/2 percentage points of growth in early 2012. The more likely, middle ground outcome: the administration and Congress agree on tax-related proposals and probably extend the one-year payroll tax cut for one more year.

There will be a bigger problem in 2013 with the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, as well as any fiscal stimulus measures.

The quick translation: allowing President Obama’s tax-hike strategy to go into effect as the President intends will wreck the U.S. economy in 2013. That, in turn, will have negative consequences for the fiscal health of the U.S.’ national balance sheet, making it less likely that the President will achieve any meaningful reductions of either the annual budget deficit or the national debt.

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February 2012