The following is a fact-check from the 5/23 episode of Meet the Press.


1) The US has an annual deficit of $2 trillion – HALF TRUE

2) The interest to that debt is $383 billion – TRUE

DR. PAUL: We have an annual deficit of nearly $2 trillion. Interest alone on the debt is $383 billion.

1) According to the Treasury Department, the national debt for fiscal year 2009 was $1.786 trillion. Mr. Paul said that it was “nearly $2 trillion.” Our conclusion hinges on our understanding of “nearly.” It would be reasonable to assume that if you spent $1.78 on something, you could probably refer to the amount spent as “nearly $2.00” When the difference is 22 cents, that does not seem like a big deal, but when the difference is hundreds of billions of dollars, we believe it is misleading to classify $1.786 trillion as nearly $2 trillion. Because of this, we rate the first part of Mr. Paul’s statement HALF TRUE.

Incidentally, if you wanted to look at the total deficit for the length of one year specifically prior to May 22, 2010 when Mr. Paul made this statement, the national debt was $1.686 trillion. (5/21/09-5/22/10)

2) Also according to the Treasury Department, the net interest on the outstanding debt of fiscal year 2009 was indeed $383 billion. Because of this, we rate the second part of Mr. Paul’s statement TRUE.

Because Mr. Paul was somewhat close to the fiscal year 2009 debt amount and correct about the interest amount, we assumed he was referring to fiscal year 2009. If one would like to assume he meant the projected fiscal year 2010 debt and interest, we defer to this analysis by crowd-checker kcar1:

According to the CBO, the baseline estimate of the annual (2010) deficit is $1.38 trillion, significantly less than $2 trillion. The 2010 annual deficit is the highest projected through 2020 (last year of CBO projection), the average for the following ten years of the CBO baseline is $599 billion, or 30% of $2 trillion figure given. The CBO calculated based on the President’s budget and those revised figures were FY2010: $1.5 trillion, average for FY2011-2020 $1.34 trillion, both still significantly less than $2 trillion.

The Net Interest the CBO reports for 2010 is $209 billion; this accounts for about 14% of the federal budget (comparison: Defense is 15% and Medicare is 17%, Non-Defense Discretionary is 23%). The average over FT2011-2020 is $596 billion (total $5.6 trillion) but the annual amount does reach the $396 billion until after FY 2013, which projected to be $365 billion.

All projection are subject to assumptions about future rate of economic growth and changes in the tax code — how that affects revenue — as well as future programmatic expenses. For example, CBO deficit rates change substantially depending on whether or not the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts and the AMT patch is extended.

Special thanks to crowd-checker kcar1 for assisting with this fact-check.

This fact-check took a combined 3 hours 25 minutes.