historic deficit

This is a plot of US outlays (spending) vs receipts (income) for every year since 1930. The connecting line shows the flow of time. If a particular year falls exactly on the "break even line," outlays match receipts and there is neither a deficit nor a surplus.

Since 1930, it has been rare for the United States to have an annual surplus. There are only three periods since 1930 in which this happens: 1930, the early post-war period (1945-1957), and the dot-com bubble (1998-2001).

It might also be valuable to compare the deficit at the start of the 2007-2012 global financial crisis with the deficit at the start of the great depression. For better or worse, they appear to have some similarities. Both financial crises seem to decrease receipts and increase outlays in roughly the same initial proportions. We can see this by comparing the slope the line first takes in these crises.

presidents and the deficit

This is the same enlarged section we looked at above. However, here we see it in terms of the President in office.

This time period includes four presidents, two Iraq wars, the boom of the 1990's, and the global financial crisis of 2007 to 2012.


The data for these visualizations came from the Office of Management and Budget at the White House.