IN THE HOLE

Deficit Hits $1.4 Trillion

The federal deficit was $1.4 trillion for the 2009 fiscal year, making it the largest relative to the size of the economy—nearly 10 percent—in more than 60 years. The damage was nearly $1 trillion more than in fiscal 2008, when it was $459 billion. Economists believe that annual deficits should not top 3 percent of gross domestic product, a mark President Obama has promised to hit by the end of his first term. Though somewhat lower than predicted earlier this year, the deficit number shows the dilemma the Obama administration faces in wanting to push through an ambitious domestic agenda without creating crushing levels of debt. Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said that for the president’s next budget, “we are considering proposals to put our country back on firm fiscal footing.” But both the administration and Congress are in early discussions about extending tax cuts and spending measures from last winter’s $787 billion stimulus plan.