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U.S. Budget Deficit Falls Under $1 Trillion; Lowest Since 2008

The U.S. government ran a deficit of $680 billion in the financial year that ended last month — the first time since 2008 that the annual shortfall has been under $1 trillion. It represents a fall from $1.09 trillion in 2012, but as the AP reports, "It's still the fifth-largest deficit of all time."

The Treasury Department announced the news along with the White House budget office Wednesday.

"Under President Obama, the nation's deficit has fallen for the past four years," Treasury Secretary Lew said. "It is now less than half of what it was when the president took office."

From the White House, NPR's Tamara Keith reports for our Newscast unit:

"The higher revenue comes from a stronger economy and tax changes agreed to as part of the fiscal cliff deal. The savings come from the automatic across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester, fewer people using food stamps, and the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan, among other things."

If you're wondering how to interpret the numbers — or just how to talk about them in a casual, yet politically charged, setting — The Atlantic is offering its help, with its "Your Guide to Arguing About It" feature.

As you would expect, the Treasury and the Office of Management and Budget can also help. Their report includes a breakdown of revenue sources and outlays for fiscal year 2013. Among the highlights:

  • Individual income taxes were $1.316 trillion, $6.7 billion higher than the Mid-Session Review estimate.
  • Corporation income taxes were $273.5 billion, $5.2 billion lower than the MSR estimate.
  • Outlays for the Department of Defense were $607.8 billion.
  • Outlays for the Department of Health and Human Services were $886.3 billion.
  • "Higher wages and salaries made collections of individual and payroll taxes strong throughout the year," the agencies say.

    As we reported earlier Wednesday, the Federal Reserve says it's staying the course and will not taper its bond-buying program, as it awaits more positive signs that the U.S. economy is moving forward.

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    Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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