WASHINGTON – For those who have harbored doubts about the Bush administration’s official statements of the federal deficit, a harrowing confirmation came in mid-April. The federal deficit for fiscal year 2005 was not $319 billion, the figure given for the official national budget. The federal deficit for fiscal year 2005 was, in fact, $760 billion, or $156,000 for every person in America.
The figure is found in the Financial Report of the United States Government, a rare document run to earth by nationally distributed Washington Post columnist David Broder.
“That $760 billion,” Broder explained, “is the real difference between the money the government received and the obligations it added in the past year – in other words, the unfunded costs being passed on to our children and grandchildren.
“The U.S. government has been running up bills – notably the promises of pensions and health care benefits for military veterans and millions of other retirees – without putting the obligations on the books.”
Since February of 2004, at the National Congress of American Indians Executive Council Winter Session, Indian country has heard warnings that attempts to reduce the federal deficit will come at the expense of the domestic discretionary budget – that small part of the overall national budget that funds a great many tribal programs. But a $760 billion deficit implies the magnitude of cutbacks the domestic discretionary budget may be asked to sustain over a period of years.
The deficit is not to be confused with the national debt of about $1.1 trillion. But a deficit can only add to the debt.