A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Long Term Debt Forecasts


Q: What’s a good source for the U.S.A.’s long-term debt, annual revenues and expeditures, and long-term deficit forecasts?

A: The Congressional Budget Office publishes data on the federal government’s budget – that’s revenues and expenditures, deficits and debt. The Treasury Dept. is the best source for daily debt figures.

FULL ANSWER

All of the information our reader asks about is readily available on the Internet. The Congressional Budget Office – one of our favorite sources for government figures – is a nonpartisan entity charged with providing federal budget information and estimates, and analyses of the effects of legislation on the U.S. bottom line. The CBO’s Web site is loaded with historical figures, as well as monthly budgets and estimates for the future.

This historical data chart gives a quick look at federal revenues, outlays, deficits, surpluses and the public debt for every year from 1968 to 2007. The CBO’s most recent budget outlook, published in Sept. 2008, includes year-by-year projections for 2008 to 2018, including deficit forecasts, as our reader mentioned. If you’re interested in how a certain bill being debated in Congress will affect revenues or expenses, just type the bill number in the search bar at the top of the site and an analysis will likely pop up.

The Bureau of the Public Debt, which is part of the Treasury Dept., also keeps tabs on the long-term debt. Down to the penny, in fact. You can check the total outstanding public debt daily, along with a breakdown on how much is held by the public (such as Treasury bills, bonds, and state and local government securities) and how much is intragovernmental holdings (Government Account Series securities and Federal Financing Bank securities). And it’s possible to dig up debt totals for specific days or a range of days back to Jan. 4, 1993. The Bureau of the Public Debt also publishes a monthly report listing the types of Treasury securities that finance the debt.

In 2007, the government took in $2.57 trillion and spent $2.73 trillion, creating a $160.7 billion deficit, according to the CBO. As of Dec. 2, the total public debt was $10.69 trillion, according to the Bureau of the Public Debt.

– Lori Robertson