In the summary of its “Budget and Economic Outlook” published on Tuesday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) noted the supportability of deficit spending even under its “alternative” analysis. Noted the CBO: “Even if the fiscal policies specified by current law come to pass, budgetary challenges over the longer term remain — and the challenges will be much more acute if those policies do not remain in place.” It added:
Under both CBO’s baseline and its alternative fiscal scenario, the aging of the population and rising costs for health care will push spending for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal health care programs considerably higher as a percentage of GDP. If that rising level of spending is coupled with revenues that are held close to the average share of GDP that they have represented for the past 40 years (rather than being allowed to increase, as under current law), the resulting deficits will increase federal debt to unsupportable levels.
In non-economic terms, then, the CBO is saying that no matter how one looks at the numbers, the United States is headed for disaster.
Using assumptions that current law remains in place — with the Bush tax cuts disappearing — revenues in 2013 and beyond will increase by an astonishing $800 billion, and yet even that enormous tax hike isn’t enough to close the gap between expenditures and taxes. The CBO even took into account that inflation will drive peoples’ incomes into higher tax brackets, subjecting more of their taxable income to higher rates of taxation, and still that wasn’t enough. In that “steady-state” scenario the national debt, currently pushing $16 trillion, would explode to $21.6 trillion in less than 10 years.
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Illustration Congressional Budget Office report: "Testimony on the Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2012 to 2022."