Three Years Running

From Holden:

President Drunken Sailor shatters the budget deficit record for the third year in a row.

An $80 billion request for additional war spending this year will push the federal deficit to a record $427 billion for fiscal 2005, and the government’s long-term fiscal health appears to be only growing worse, administration and congressional officials said today.

Senior administration officials announced today they would soon seek at least $75 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan this year, plus an additional $5 billion to build an embassy in Baghdad, continue reconstruction in Afghanistan, offer assistance to the Palestinians and send relief to the Darfur region of Sudan. That $80 billion would come on top of $25 billion already appropriated for the war this year, pushing the total cost of fighting to $105 billion this year, up from $88 billion in 2004 and $78.6 billion in 2003.


The additional request should send the federal deficit above the record $412 billion deficit recorded in fiscal year 2004, which ended Sept. 30, said three administration officials, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.

In a separate briefing, the director of the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said tax cuts and spending enacted by Congress last year will tack an additional $504 billion in debt to the government’s anticipated total between 2005 and 2014. Deficits over that decade should total $1.36 trillion, well above the $861 billion figure the CBO projected in September.

“We’re doing a little bit worse over the long term,” said CBO director Douglas Holtz-Eakin, “and it’s largely due to policy” changes.

Taken together, the forecasts of Congress’s official budget scorekeeper and three senior administration officials painted a sober picture of the government’s financial strength, even in the face of a growing economy and rising tax receipts. The figures suggest the Bush administration will continue to have difficulty reigning in federal deficits as a long war drains the government’s coffers.

A senior administration official told reporters that Bush’s budget — to be unveiled Feb. 7 — will show the government on track to cut the budget deficit in half from the White House’s initial deficit projection for 2004.

But the CBO forecast cast significant doubt on that claim.


Indeed, by the White House’s own forecast, the deficit picture has changed little since the government’s finances began eroding sharply in 2003. That year, the deficit hit a record $378 billion. Last year, the government set a new record in nominal dollars with a $412 billion deficit. Now, the White House expects to hit $427 billion, although a senior administration official said that is slightly less than the 2004 level, if measured against the size of the economy.