Economists generally agree that annual deficits should not exceed 3 percent of the G.D.P., and that is the level President Obama had vowed to reach by the end of his first term in 2013.

But subsequent spending and tax cuts to stimulate the economy, and lower-than-expected revenues as the recession deepened before bottoming out, combined to push the administration’s deficit forecast to 4.6 percent of G.D.P. for the fiscal year 2013.

At 10 percent of the gross domestic product, the 2009 deficit is the highest since the end of World War II, when it was 21.5 percent. At that level, it already has become a bigger economic and a political issue than any time since the late 1980s.

Investors who are essential to financing the debt, including China and other foreign interests, are eager for signs that the government will eventually regain control over its budgets.