The following article appeared on Oct. 11, 2007, courtesy of the Associated Press.
Deficit falls to lowest level in 5 years
Both spending, revenue at record marks in 2007
BY MARTIN CRUTSINGER
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration reported Thursday that the federal budget deficit fell to $162.8 billion in the just-completed budget year, the lowest amount of red ink in five years.
The administration credited the president's tax cuts for helping generate record-breaking revenues but warned of an approaching "fiscal train wreck" unless Congress deals with unsustainable growth in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
President Bush, appearing with his economic team to trumpet the news, noted that the deficit turned out to be $81 billion lower than it was projected to be in February. He said the deficit represents 1.2 percent of gross domestic product - less than the average of the last 40 years.
"By keeping taxes low we can grow the economy, and by working with Congress to set priorities we can be fiscally responsible and we can head toward balance," Bush said after the meeting across the street from the White House. "And that's exactly where we're headed."
The deficit for the 2007 budget year that ended on Sept. 30 was 34.4 percent lower than the $248.2 billion deficit recorded in 2006, reflecting faster growth in revenues than in government spending.
Administration officials said the government was on track to accomplish Bush's goal of eliminating the deficit by 2012. But Democrats said the improvement in the deficit this year did not mask the fact that Bush's economic policies transformed the budget surpluses of the Clinton years into record deficits and an unprecedented increase in the national debt.
The debate over the president's signature tax cuts and their impact on the economy are certain to be played out in the coming presidential campaign. Republican candidates are vowing to make permanent Bush's tax cuts, which are due to expire at the end of 2010; Democrats want to roll back the tax cuts received by the wealthiest taxpayers.
Both revenues and spending climbed to record levels in 2007. Spending rose by 2.8 percent to $2.73 trillion while revenues rose by a faster 6.7 percent to a record $2.57 trillion, a gain the administration attributed to the economic stimulus from the president's tax cuts.
"This year's budget results further demonstrate how the president's tax relief, combined with spending discipline, has helped promote a sustained economic expansion, which led to revenue growth and resulted in a declining deficit," said White House budget director Jim Nussle.
But administration officials said while the short-term budget deficit was improving, greater efforts were needed to deal with the budgetary pressures that will arise in future years with the approaching retirement of 78 million baby boomers.
"For the sake of our children and grandchildren, Congress should begin to take action to prevent this fiscal train wreck," Nussle said in a statement accompanying the budget figures.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said that Bush would "go down in history as the most fiscally irresponsible president ever. The fact is that the nation's debt has exploded on his watch - rising by $3 trillion since 2001, to $9 trillion today."
Bush recently signed into law a measure increasing the government's borrowing ceiling to $9.815 trillion. It was the fifth debt increase of Bush's presidency. The national debt is the accumulation of the annual deficits.
The deficit hit an all-time high in dollar terms of $413 billion in 2004 and has been coming down since.
The Congressional Budget Office projects the deficit will improve further in the 2008 budget year, which began on Oct. 1, projecting a decline to $155 billion before the imbalance starts to rise again in 2009.