Government Shutdown Limits Budget Data, Too

Last week, we noted that the furlough of "non-essential" employees at the Congressional Budget Office due to the government shutdown could halt the release of the updated Budget Options report, depriving lawmakers of important information at a time when they would ideally be using it to create a deficit reduction package. Now, budget data is being affected as CBO announced that the Monthly Budget Review (MBR) for September will be delayed until after the shutdown.

While the MBR is normally a very micro view of the budget, looking at spending and revenue by category in each month, this month's version also would have given us the first (unofficial) look at the final deficit number for FY 2013. CBO last projected in May a deficit of $641 billion for the past fiscal year. Through August, the deficit has been $753 billion, but a significant surplus in September was expected due to quarterly tax payments coming in that month (there was a surplus of $75 billion in September 2012). This year's deficit will be down significantly from last year's $1.1 trillion.

While the short-term deficit is not the main concern, it is still interesting and informative to see how recent policy changes and events have affected the federal budget. More critically, the shutdown is not allowing policymakers -- or anyone else for that matter -- to see the current budget situation or options for how to deal with the long-term problem.