Projected US Budget Deficit Lie in Four Pictures


Nearly every year, the national debt rises more than the deficit. The picture is guaranteed to get worse.

Fantasyland Thinking

Please recall Trump's preposterous claim that he will use tariffs to pay down the national debt.

That is truly Fantasyland thinking. In fact, it is so preposterous, one has to wonder if it is a purposeful lie. Then again, we are talking about Trump, so perhaps he does believe it.

Data for these charts from US Government Debt, not an official government website.

Projections vs Reality

In nearly all cases, the increase in national debt is way higher than projected deficits. Why?

Because the projected deficit does not include all of the amount owed to the Social Security Trust Fund. That amount is called off-budget. But when the calendar year rolls over, the difference magically appears on the balance sheet as actual debt.

Actual and Projected Debt

Projected Deficits vs Projected Increases in Debt

​That picture is where lie meets reality. Let's total it up.

Projected Deficits vs Projected Increases in Debt Totals Through 2023

The total projected debt increase for 2018-2023 is $6.826 trillion.

The total projected deficit increase for 2018-2023 is $5.352 trillion.

Deficit Scam

Excluding Social Security from the deficit is an accounting scam.

The cumulative deficit lie for the years 2018-2023 is $1.473 trillion.

Expect Much Worse

The story is even much worse. Those numbers assume no recession through 2023.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

Comments (31)
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I wouldn't expect the budget deficit to track the change in what is commonly reported as total debt. The total debt that is commonly reported includes (to my annoyance as an accountant) debt that the government owes itself for things like Social Security and Medicare ("Intragovernmental Holdings"). Intragovernmental holdings are irrelevant because this so-called "debt" is exactly offset by "assets," and it is a wash. A corporation would properly eliminate these "intercompany" accounts, but governments don't hold themselves to the same standards of logic.

The relevant debt is the "Debt Held by the Public." Of course, this isn't the only liability owed by the government. There are also things like accounts payable, accrued wages & benefits, the massive present value of expected entitlement benefit payments, etc. There are also changes in assets, such as purchases or sales of government land, buildings, etc.

You might find the Financial Report of the United States Government interesting. Click on the "Current Report" link:



"I wouldn't expect the budget deficit to track the change in what is commonly reported as total debt."

It tracks every year as I stated. What I believe you mean is the total of future unfunded liabilities. Yep, that doesn't track because they don't count until they happen.


The discrepancy between the increase in debt and the deficit doesn't just apply to projections, but also to the past. In fact, increases in debt were substantially larger than the announced deficits even when social security receipts were still in surplus.


for pete's sake , we still are running nearly a trillion yearly in the hole as far as the eye can see. Does the government really think that global financial markets will provide this much float ? government debt will crowd out private debt. this is financial socialism.


So basically the politicians are lying, since increase in debt is, by definition, a deficit.