Good news: The final, official federal budget deficit for Fiscal Year 2014, which ended last Sept. 30, was the lowest since 2008 — and by a wide margin.
Bad news: That deficit was $483 billion — the sixth highest total in U.S. history. And all six of those have come in the last six years.
Still, when it comes to federal red ink, less is better for us than more — and $483 billion is much better than the four straight trillion-plus deficits from fiscal years 2009 through 2012.
Another encouraging indicator: The downward deficit trend reflects rising tax revenues generated by a strengthening economy.
That deficit decline, however, is unsustainable under current spending — and taxing — policies. As Baby Boomer retirement ranks swell in the next two decades, so does the urgent need for sweeping, politically daunting entitlement reforms.
As Charles Lane of The Washington Post writes on today’s Commentary page: “Spending on Medicare, Medicaid, the two education laws and SSDI [Social Security Disability Insurance] hit nearly $1 trillion in fiscal 2013, according to the Congressional Budget Office, or roughly 3 out of every 10 dollars Washington spent after interest payments. Future health-care costs, slated to grow in part due to Medicaid’s expansion under Obamacare, drive projected future federal deficits; SSDI’s trust fund is on course to run out of cash by fiscal 2017.”
Meanwhile, the record national debt, as of Friday, was already an alarming $18.1 trillion — and still climbing.
And while the drop in the deficit is welcome, remember, when the federal government spends nearly half a trillion dollars more than it brings in during just one year, Washington is still spending far beyond our means.