This article is from the archive of our partner .

Here's something to fight about: The federal deficit for the 2012-2013 budget year dropped to $680 billion — the lowest level since the recession.

The Associated Press reports:

The government says the deficit for the 2013 budget year totaled $680.3 billion, down from $1.09 trillion in 2012. That's the smallest imbalance since 2008, when the government ran a $458.6 billion deficit.

The deficit is the gap between the government's tax revenue and its spending. It narrowed for the budget year that ended on Sept. 30 because revenue rose while spending fell.

Both political parties can have fun with this one, thanks in part to that last line. But before we offer you our helpful cocktail hour talking points, here's what the drop looks like.

That's just the deficit since 1980. In the late 1990s, the federal government's revenue (mostly taxes) was larger than its outlays, yielding a surplus. That used to be the norm. Here, via the Federal Reserve, is the surplus or deficit since 1900. Important note: This is not adjusted to 2012 dollars.

And now, here's how to argue about this.


You should point out that the reason the deficit has dropped is, in part, thanks to reduced spending. And that reduced spending, in no small part is thanks to the sequestration. While everyone pretended to hate the blind, drastic cuts the sequester demanded, Republican leaders in Congress have come around to the idea that it's a policy victory for the party. Deficits were declining before the sequestration kicked in last March, but the cuts certainly helped trim the deficit this year.


Traditionally, Democrats didn't worry much about the annual ebb and flow of government spending. In the modern political era, dominated by the allure of small government and centrist Democratic presidents, that's become less common. So all Democrats need to do is point to this, the ever-popular-and-now-updated graph of how the deficit changed under presidents of both political parties.

When Democrats have been president, deficits have dropped; under Clinton, they became a surplus.

Republicans again

Point out that the first slide under Bush started in the blue Clinton area. See? Hours of fun for all!

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.