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Wisconsin Watch partners with Gigafact to produce fact briefs — bite-sized fact checks of trending claims. Read our methodology to learn how we check claims.


The federal budget deficit exceeded $1.6 trillion during the first 10 months of fiscal 2023, the Treasury Department reported Aug. 10, 2023.

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, alluded to the figure in an Aug. 25 interview.

A deficit occurs when government spending exceeds revenues.

The period covered by the report was Oct. 1, 2022, through July 31, 2023. (Federal fiscal years run Oct. 1 through Sept. 30.)

The government spent $5.3 trillion and took in $3.7 trillion during the 10 months.

The largest expenditure, $1.1 trillion, was on Social Security.

The largest source of receipts, $1.8 trillion, was individual income taxes.

Recent full-year deficits were $1.4 trillion (fiscal 2022), $2.8 trillion (2021), $3.1 trillion (2020) and $1 trillion (2019). Spending in response to the COVID-19 pandemic raised deficits.

In the last 50 years, the budget has run a surplus five times, most recently in 2001, according to Treasury.

This Fact Brief is responsive to conversations such as this one.


U.S. Department of the Treasury | Bureau of the Fiscal Service: Treasury monthly report (Table 1)

Sean Spicer (YouTube): It’s Okay Because Hunter Biden Did It | Ep. 5

FiscalData: US Deficit by Year

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Tom Kertscher joined as a Wisconsin Watch fact checker in January 2023 and contributes to our collaboration with the The Gigafact Project to fight misinformation online. Kertscher is a former longtime newspaper reporter, including at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, who has worked as a self-employed journalist since 2019. His gigs include contributing writer for PolitiFact and sports freelancer for The Associated Press.