The Obama administration and mainstream media outlets joyously proclaimed the U.S. deficit’s significant decline on Wednesday, glossing over the Republican-led sequester and a federal debt that stands at $17 trillion and rising.
The U.S. Treasury released a statement announcing that the federal budget deficit for Fiscal Year 2013 came in at a lower-than-expected $680 billion, falling from an all-time high of $1.4 trillion in 2009.
Most of that drop came in the last 12 months, with analysts crediting congressionally-mandated sequester spending cuts, an improving economy and the Obama administration’s increased taxes on wealthy Americans.
The deficit is the amount of money lost by the federal government over the course of one fiscal year. The federal debt, in contrast, is the sum of all money owed by the U.S. government. So even though the debt grew by a smaller amount this year — $640 billion versus $1.1 trillion in 2012 — it still grew at a greater pace than at almost any other period in history.
Despite this, the Obama administration made no attempt at false modesty over Wednesday’s news.
“Under President Obama, the nation’s deficit has fallen for the past four years, the fastest pace of decline over a sustained period since World War II,” said Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. “Congress must build on this progress by crafting a pro-jobs and pro-growth budget agreement that strengthens the economy while maintaining fiscal discipline.”
The White House struck a similar chord, basking in the praise while blaming Congress for continuing economic woes. “Deficit more than cut in half under POTUS watch,” tweeted Amy Brundage, the White House’s communications director. “Congress needs to focus on growing economy and creating good jobs.”
The Daily Caller News Foundation could find no administration official crediting Congress for the sequester cuts, or mentioning that the federal debt continues to grow.
Some of the media reacted similarly, highlighting President Obama’s contributions to deficit reduction while omitting or underplaying the sequester and the debt. An article in Politico failed to mention the sequester or the debt even once, while a USA Today piece omitted discussion of the massive debt but did give some credit to the sequester.
An article in The New York Times paid lip service to the sequester, but made only passing reference to the federal debt as part of an analysis of ongoing budget negotiations.
The better-than-expected deficit reduction is certainly good news, but economic analysts are more concerned with long-term deficit and debt projections. As unsustainable entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare consume a greater share of federal spending in coming decades, both the deficit and debt will grow at increasingly faster rates.
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