US budget deficit sets February record of $234 billion

WASHINGTON (AP) — The federal government posted a record budget deficit in February, pushing the overall deficit for the first five months of the budget year up 39 percent from a year ago.

The Treasury Department said Friday in its monthly report that the deficit hit an all-time high for February of $234 billion. That surpasses the old February deficit record of $232 billion set in 2012, the last year the deficit for the year topped $1 trillion.

For the first five months of this budget year that began on Oct. 1, the deficit totals $544.2 billion, up from a deficit of $391 billion in the previous budget year.

In its new budget sent to Congress last week, the administration is projecting that this year's deficit will total $1.09 trillion and will remain above $1 trillion for the next four years.

The administration's 2019 forecast would represent a 40 percent increase from last year's deficit of $779 billion.

According to the forecast, this year's deficit will be the largest imbalance since the government had a $1.1 trillion deficit in 2012. That was the fourth straight year of trillion-dollar deficits during a period when the Obama administration had boosted spending to grapple with the 2008 financial crisis and lift the country out of the deepest recession since the 1930s.

From October through February, revenue is down 0.6 percent from the same period a year ago. Outlays are up 8.6 percent compared to the same period last year.

Critics of the administration's economic policies blame the bigger deficits on the $1.5 trillion tax cut for individuals and corporations that the administration pushed through Congress in December 2017. They also cite billions of dollars in increased spending on the military and domestic programs that Congress approved last year.

For this budget year, withheld taxes for individuals and Social Security taxes are down 1 percent. Corporate taxes have fallen 23 percent.

Tariffs, which the Trump administration has increased on China and other nations as part of the president's get-tough trade policies, are up 91 percent to $30 billion in the first five months of this budget year.