December deficit nearly doubles

By Blake Ellis, contributing writer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The U.S. government posted a deficit of $91.9 billion in December, nearly double the shortfall of a year earlier and marking the government's 15th straight month in the red, the Treasury Department reported Wednesday.

The shortfall brings the total deficit for the first quarter of fiscal year 2010 to $388.5 billion, up from $332 billion during the same period last year.

It was the second consecutive December the government spent more than it took in. In December 2008, the deficit was $51.8 billion.

While December's deficit was less than the $120.3 billion in November, that's no reason to celebrate. The government typically rings up a surplus in December as year-end bonuses boost high individual withholding and as companies make quarterly income tax payments.

The deficit remained high in the first three months of the fiscal year because while spending was down by $3.6 billion from the same period last year, tax revenue fell even more, dropping by $59.7 billion as individual income and payroll taxes declined.

Interest paid on the debt in December was $104.6 billion -- 34% of federal outlays for the month.

"No surprises, the government obviously continues to run a very large deficit," said Gus Faucher, director of macro economics at Moody's Economy.com. "But that's necessary as a response to the recession and the financial crisis."

The Treasury estimates the annual deficit will climb to $1.502 trillion for the full fiscal year 2010, up from $1.42 trillion in 2009.

Debt ceiling: For the long term, many economists are less concerned about monthly and annual deficits, focusing instead on the enormous accumulation of national debt and its rapid upward trend.

"We want to have a big deficit now because that's helping to stimulate the economy, said Faucher. "The concern is about the longer run."

That's especially true after Congress raised the debt ceiling again. The new limit for the amount of debt the Treasury is allowed to have, passed in the last days of 2009, was set at $12.394 trillion, up $290 billion from the previous level of $12.104 trillion. Depending on the state of the economy, this should provide the government relief until mid-February.

As of Monday, the country's total public debt was $12.285 trillion, $109 billion below the debt limit. To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,067.56 -30.89 -0.18%
Nasdaq 4,598.19 17.92 0.39%
S&P 500 2,002.28 -1.09 -0.05%
Treasuries 2.42 0.08 3.24%
Data as of 12:36am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 16.27 0.05 0.31%
Apple Inc 103.30 0.80 0.78%
Staples Inc 12.63 0.95 8.13%
Facebook Inc 76.68 1.86 2.49%
Intel Corp 34.57 -0.35 -1.00%
Data as of Sep 2

Sections

Georgia dealers say Tesla shouldn't sell its cars directly to consumers. It's also one of the most popular markets for electric vehicles. More

If approved by Los Angeles city council, the plan could raise wages for 567,000 workers by 2017. More

The latest celebrity photo hack shows your digital life doesn't end at your phone. If your stuff lives on "the cloud," you don't control the data. More

If approved by Los Angeles city council, the plan could raise wages for 567,000 workers by 2017. More

A scam where fraudsters impersonate IRS agents has now stolen $5 million from taxpayers, and this woman - who lost her entire life savings -- is just one of its victims. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.