The government ran up the largest monthly deficit in history in February. The Treasury Department reported Wednesday that the deficit totaled $220.9 billion, 14 percent higher than the previous record set in February of last year.
The deficit through the first five months of this budget year totals $651.6 billion, 10.5 percent higher than a year ago.
The Associated Press reports the Obama administration is projecting that the deficit for the 2010 budget year will hit an all-time high of $1.56 trillion, surpassing last year’s $1.4 trillion total. The administration is forecasting that the deficit will remain above $1 trillion in 2011, giving the country three straight years of $1 trillion-plus deficits.
The government’s monthly budget report showed the record $220.9 billion deficit for February reflected outlays of $328.4 billion and revenues of $107.5 billion. The February receipts marked the first time that revenues are up compared with the same month a year ago since April 2008. Revenues had fallen for 21 straight months as the recession cut into both individual and corporate income tax payments.
Through the first five months of the budget year, government revenues totaled $800.5 billion, down 7 percent from a year ago, while outlays totaled $1.45 trillion, up a slight 0.1 percent from a year ago.
The deficit of $651.6 billion through February is up by 10.5 percent from the $589.8 billion deficit run up during the first five months of the 2009 budget year. The government’s budget year begins on Oct. 1.
The budget that Obama sent to Congress in February projects that the deficits over the next decade will total $8.53 trillion. But the Congressional Budget Office last week put the 10-year total even higher at $9.8 trillion. Part of the reason for the $1.2 trillion difference is that the CBO is projecting slower economic growth and thus less tax revenues than the administration over the next decade.
The administration has maintained that the country must run large budget deficits until the economy begins to grow at a sustainable pace that is bringing the unemployment rate down. Only then, the administration says, should the government focus on getting control of the deficits.
With the economy so weak, the interest rates that the government has to finance the flood of red ink have remained low. However, economists are worried that the favorable outlook on interest rates could change quickly if investors, including foreign investors, start to worry about the government’s commitment to restraining future deficits. Communist China is the largest foreign holder of U.S. Treasury securities.
Through the first five months of this budget year, net interest payments totaled $86.5 billion, up 15.3 percent from a year ago.
In its report last week, the CBO predicted that the government debt held by investors would climb from $7.5 trillion at the end of last year to $20.3 trillion in 2020. CBO forecast that interest payments would more than quadruple from a projected $209 billion this year to $916 billion annually by the end of the decade.