We won't know for sure what this year's federal budget deficit is going to be until the end of the fiscal year, but if the projections are accurate, a whole lot of talking points are going to need revisions.
The federal budget deficit in 2013 is projected to be $845 billion, the first time the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has forecast a deficit below $1 trillion under President Obama.The reduction in the budget deficit comes after Congress approved higher tax rates on households with annual income above $450,000.
The CBO also projects the deficit will shrink again next year to $430 billion.
Why is this politically significant? For one thing, congressional Republicans said raising taxes on the wealthy would not improve the nation's finances, and it appears we now have even more evidence to the contrary. They also seem to enjoy complaining about "trillion-dollar deficits every year," and will have to drop the line from their repertoire.
What's more, it appears the deficit will have been cut nearly in half -- both in real terms and as a percentage of GDP -- since President Obama inherited a massive budget shortfall from the Bush/Cheney administration.
Of course, there's also the matter of the fiscal debate -- as GOP lawmakers continue to insist Washington take the deficit seriously, and adopt austerity measures intended to close the budget shortfall in a hurry, we're reminded today that the deficit is already shrinking.
For the record, I still think it's a mistake to assume that shrinking deficits are good news. There's a competing school of thought -- which I'm sympathetic to -- that suggests the deficit is currently too small, and that given economic conditions, interest rates, and the current yield of Treasuries, we should be borrowing far more and investing that money in job creation.
But at least as far as the establishment conversation goes, we should at least have a fiscal debate based on facts -- and the facts are that the deficit is shrinking in a hurry.