Economists list U.S. budget deficit as No. 1 worry

Reuters’ Rachelle Younglai reports that the massive U.S. budget deficit is the gravest threat facing the economy, topping high unemployment and the risk of inflation or deflation, according to a survey of forecasters released on Monday.

The National Association for Business Economics said its 47-member panel of forecasters increased its estimate for the 2011 federal deficit to $1.4 trillion from $1.1 trillion in its previous survey in November.

Economists list U.S. budget deficit as No. 1 worry

“Panelists continue to characterize excessive federal indebtedness as their single greatest concern,” with state and local government debt the second-biggest worry, the survey said. It was conducted between January 25 and February 9.

The panel’s deficit forecast is lower than the Obama administration projection of a record $1.65 trillion this fiscal year, or 10.9 percent of U.S. gross domestic product.

Although the White House budget proposes $1.1 trillion in deficit reductions over 10 years, Republicans in the House of Representatives say that is not enough.

Republicans are pressuring the administration to reduce spending by $61 billion by September, and the dispute threatens to shut down the government if Democrats and the White House refuse to go along.

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