U.S. Deficit Soars: What the Election Means for Federal Finances


Last updated: July 1, 2024

DollarsThe presidential election has reignited debates about federal budget deficits as markets gauge the financial implications of either a Biden or Trump administration. Just a week before the recent presidential debate, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) revised its projections, revealing a stark fiscal reality.

For fiscal 2024, the CBO now estimates a deficit of $1.9 trillion, a sharp increase from the $1.6 trillion projected in February and up from 2023’s $1.7 trillion. While this figure doesn’t hit the pandemic peak of $3 trillion, it’s nearly on par with Russia’s entire GDP, underscoring the gravity of the situation.

A significant chunk of this increase is attributed to emergency spending, primarily to support Ukraine in its conflict with Russia, along with aid to Israel and U.S. allies in Asia.

Comparatively, the U.S. deficit surpasses the GDPs of major economies like Mexico ($1.79 trillion), Australia ($1.72 trillion), and South Korea ($1.71 trillion).

Markets, for now, remain more fixated on inflation and potential Federal Reserve rate cuts. However, the burgeoning deficit poses significant risks. Former New York Fed President Bill Dudley emphasized on Bloomberg TV that unsustainable trends inevitably reach a breaking point.

He cautioned that a sudden loss of confidence in U.S. Treasuries could trigger a vicious cycle: rising interest rates to attract buyers, escalating debt service costs, and further ballooning the deficit.

“The feedback loop here can be quite vicious,” Dudley noted, highlighting the unpredictable timing of such shifts.
Additionally, Western sanctions on Russia have led some nations to reduce their reliance on dollar-denominated assets, affecting demand for U.S. Treasury bonds. As older, lower-rate debt is rolled over at higher rates, debt service costs are accelerating.

The upcoming election could be a pivotal moment. A Wall Street Journal report suggested Trump’s allies might seek to erode the Federal Reserve’s independence, potentially leading to increased Treasury purchases and inflation.

While Dudley pointed out that controlling the Fed isn’t straightforward due to its structure, even attempts to do so could unsettle markets. “Just the mere attempt to take control of the Fed, to diminish the Fed’s independence could be the spark that rattles markets,” he added.

In this high-stakes game, the fiscal future of the U.S. hinges not just on policies but also on market perceptions and geopolitical dynamics.

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Jon Morgan, MBA, LLM, has over ten years of experience growing startups and currently serves as CEO and Editor-in-Chief of Venture Smarter. Educated at UC Davis and Harvard, he offers deeply informed guidance. Beyond work, he enjoys spending time with family, his poodle Sophie, and learning Spanish.
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LJ Viveros has 40 years of experience in founding and scaling businesses, including a significant sale to Logitech. He has led Market Solutions LLC since 1999, focusing on strategic transitions for global brands. A graduate of Saint Mary’s College in Communications, LJ is also a distinguished Matsushita Executive alumnus.
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