For its fiscal year (ended September 30, 2013), the U.S. government posted a budget deficit of $680 billion…that’s after four years of annual trillion-dollar budget deficits. And with the onset of a new fiscal year, the trend continues. (There are projections the U.S. government will have a budget deficit each year until at least 2038.)
The Department of the Treasury’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service reported the U.S. government registered a budget deficit of $92.0 billion in the first month of its fiscal year 2014 (October 2013). The government’s revenues were $199 billion, and its spending amounted to $291 billion. (Source: Bureau of the Fiscal Service, Department of the Treasury, November 13, 2013.)
As a result of continuous budget deficits, the national debt has skyrocketed to $17.0 trillion, and with the crises that are currently taking place in the U.S. economy—municipal bankruptcies, soaring pension liabilities, and student debt delinquencies—I expect it to go to $34.0 trillion.
On the other hand, there’s the Canadian government. According to its most recent economic and fiscal projection, it expects to have a budget surplus (when revenues are more than expenses) by its fiscal year 2015-2016. It then plans to use this surplus to start paying off the small national debt it has accumulated. (Source: Department of Finance Canada, November 12, 2013.)
Note the difference: while the U.S. government expects to post budget deficits for a very long time to come, Canada—a major player in the global economy—is very close to a budget surplus.
If the U.S. government continues to follow the same trajectory (spending more and borrowing more), it’s not sustainable in the long run, as there comes a point when creditors question the value of the currency they have lent against. If it ever comes to that situation—and one day, it will—the bond market will not be the only victim; the U.S. dollar will face an identity crisis, and the buying power of Americans will be destroyed.
Obviously, all of this won’t come into play right away, but we’re getting there.