Why does the US debt to GDP ratio grew over past decades even though the deficit was under control?

Discussion in 'Economics' started by Daal, Oct 17, 2018.

  1. Daal


    I downloaded the CBO excel dataset and I found out that since 1968 to 2017 the average US deficit was -3.5% or -2.9% if the surplus of the SS trust fund were included. Regarless of the method used, average US Nominal GDP growth during that period was 6.5% (roughly 3% real growth and 3.5% inflation). So the debt to GDP ratio should have gone down. Does anyone has a list of the tricks the goverment uses to send costs and outlays 'off balance sheet'? What are the main issues that lead to the discrepancy?

    Last edited: Oct 17, 2018
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  2. By "under control", do you mean... exploding and unsustainable?
    zdreg, schweiz, R1234 and 1 other person like this.
  3. maler


  4. Daal


    It doesnt like it is that, that accounts for the discrepancy. It sounds like that big figure its coming from writedowns and revaluations from property, plant and equipment. Those are non-cash charges and that deficit and the yoy increase the debt held by the public is not really affected by those things. I think Mr. Skidmore might be off in his efforts. The US is a huge owner of property, land and other things. In fact, it is the largest
  5. Daal



    The R-Square between the deficit and debt to GDP ratio is only 0.17
  6. schweiz


    A good accountant asks his boss: what would you like to final result to be this year?

    He then books in such a way the result is what the boss wanted. I have seen in my life a lot of "creative" (or rather criminal) bookings.
  7. Edith.M


    The defence budget tells it all. extremely to huge
  8. Sig


    That's a micro concept, government debt is macro. We don't consider Yellowstone an "asset" with a value that we use to offset our liabilities. We don't even consider a $1B stealth bomber an "asset" that offsets our debt. I picked those examples on purpose because they highlight why we don't. If a business owns land or a dump truck they can sell them at any time for close to the value they're held on their books (I know that depreciation is often not accurate but the concept holds for this explanation). That makes them an asset. The U.S. government can't sell Yellowstone or a stealth bomber, they're not assets in that same way.

    We do certainly track property, I spent many hours in my military service tracking down copiers and computer serial numbers for annual property audits. But me finding that "missing" copier didn't reduce the deficit any, it was just a requirement of good government that we keep track of the stuff we buy with tax dollars.
    ironchef and Sprout like this.
  9. dealmaker


    In a social democracy with a fiat currency, all roads lead to inflation. – Bill Fleckenstein
    #10     Nov 7, 2018