Sunday, February 23, 2014

Deficit Data Confusion at

Someone posted to Google+ a bar graph showing a rapid decrease in the deficit over Obama's period in office. Searching for information to check it, I located a  page on with lots of budget information, including information on the deficit, and found the contents of the two to be strikingly inconsistent.

Here is the bar graph:

And here is the spreadsheet:

The first four numbers for the deficit on the bar graph are slightly lower than the corresponding numbers on the spreadsheet. The final number is much lower. According to the spreadsheet, the 2013 figure is about 60% of the 2009 figure, not less than half.

My initial guess was that the bar chart was a fake produced by Obama supporters outside the government, but a little searching located it on a different page on, dated October 30, 2013. The U.S. fiscal year ends on 30th September, so the graph ought to be showing real data. The spreadsheet does not, so far as I can tell, say when it was calculated, and it gives the 2013 deficit as an estimate, which suggests that it may be presenting earlier figures from a point at which it looked as though the deficit was going to be larger than it ended up being. But that does not explain the smaller discrepencies for the previous four years.

Anyone know what's going on?

Here is a similar and at least roughly consistent bar graph from another source. It goes one year farther back, making the overall picture look rather different.


At 6:20 PM, February 24, 2014, Anonymous William Bruntrager said...

Click the PDF at the bottom of the 10/30/2013 press release (your second link). Comparing the numbers, you'll see that the 6.0% FY2013 deficit was an estimate based on estimated receipts and outlays. The 4.1% deficit figure is based on the actual FY2013 receipts (slightly higher than expected) and outlays (quite a bit lower than expected).


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