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CBO: U.S. government ran a $173 billion deficit in August, $2.7 trillion so far this year

The leader of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget says "policymakers can’t keep heading down an unsustainable path"

Updated: September 9, 2021 - 5:00pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

The federal government ran a $173 billion deficit in August, bringing the total deficit to $2.7 trillion so far this year, according to Congressional Budget Office data released Thursday. 

"We’ve borrowed $247 billion per month so far this year – a staggering amount that would have previously been unthinkable. A lot of that debt was justified in light of the COVID crisis, but with CBO projecting the national debt to hit a new record, it’s time to take stock of our fiscal situation," Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, said in a statement.

"Policymakers can’t keep heading down an unsustainable path. Short-term thinking is what left us with so much debt before the pandemic, as lawmakers freely cut taxes and hiked spending during the economic expansion while failing to address the rising costs of health care and retirement programs," she also said.

MacGuineas said legislation such as the Democrats' $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill is going to make the country's financial situation worse.

"The bipartisan infrastructure plan would increase the deficit by several hundred billion dollars. Meanwhile, reconciliation and appropriations bills under discussion could borrow even more," she said. "We learned last week that Social Security and Medicare are only a few years from insolvency. We should be working to secure those programs, not debating whether to deficit-finance new spending and tax cuts."

MacGuineas also said that it make more sense to "borrow in bad times, and pay for things in good times."

In fiscal year 2019, the deficit was $984 billion. It hit a record $3.1 trillion in fiscal year 2020, driven by stimulus spending during the pandemic.

The national debt is climbing to $29 trillion, according to Treasury Department data.