How big is our big deficit?

A contentious debate in D.C. is how to tame the ballooning budget deficit. What measures -- spending cuts, tax hikes -- are needed? Money magazine looks at how we got here and how big our debt really is.

Budget deficits are bipartisan affairs
Budget deficits are bipartisan affairs
The deficit, or the gap between what the federal government collects and what it spends, has plagued Democratic and Republican administrations alike.

Policy shifts like tax reform and new programs matter, but so does the economy: A booming one tends to shrink the deficit; recessions bring stimulus spending and lower tax revenue owing to less economic activity.

By Susie Poppick @Money - Last updated May 14 2012: 12:24 PM ET
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The budget: Is Uncle Sam just an insurance company?

Democrats and Republicans are arguing fiercely over the proper size of the government. Money magazine looks at the facts -- how much we're spending and what we're spending it on.

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