Federal Budget Deficit Plummeted This Year, But Americans Still Think It's Rising

Federal Budget Deficit Plummeted This Year, But Americans Still Think It's Rising

You know that the government just shut down and that you could build a better website than Healthcare.gov. But I'll bet that you didn’t know that the federal deficit is at a five-year low.

The Treasury Department is out with the results of this year’s budget, and 2013 was a good year for American spending. The deficit has fallen a whopping 37% since 2012. The deficit, or gap between what the government spent and what they took in, totaled just 4.1% of gross domestic product. To put it in perspective, that number was over 10% when Obama took office.

Source: The Washington Post

This is the first time that deficit number has been below 5% of the GDP, and below $1 trillion, since 2008 and the beginning of the recession. This is the best we’ve done in five years, and we should be singing about it from the rooftops. But nobody seems to care, probably because Americans think the exact opposite is happening with the federal deficit — they think it’s growing.

For voting “reducing budget deficit” as a top priority for the president and Congress (second only to the economy and jobs), not many Americans actually know what’s going on with it. A Google consumer survey taken in August asked, “How do you think the U.S. Federal Government's yearly budget deficit has changed since January 2010?” Almost 40% of the respondents answered that it “increased a lot.” Yikes. This is the kind of deficit decrease that debt hawks have been asking for, and the Americans don't even register.

Worse still, a February survey conducted by Bloomberg saw only 6% of respondents correctly identify the federal budget as getting smaller. That’s right — 94% of this country doesn’t know that what they asked for is happening. And that’s a big problem.

The deficit has been plummeting for years now. It’s embarrassing that we still think it’s growing. Is it simply from not knowing the difference between debt and deficit? It is because we’re too focused on Obamacare? (Although as Jimmy Kimmel showed, many Americans don’t know what that is, either.) Or is it just that the news media gives us what we want to hear — bad news?

The fact that the national deficit is shrinking doesn’t change the reality that there are still major challenges ahead for the government's finances. But it is a fact, and an accomplishment, and we should treat it as that.