CBO’s mid-year review largely reinforces the bad news we already knew—to wit, that spending has exploded since Democrats took over Congress in 2007, first with the acquiescence of George W. Bush and then into hyperdrive after Mr. Obama entered the White House.
To appreciate the magnitude of this spending blowout, compare CBO’s budget “baseline” estimate in January 2008 with the baseline it released Thursday. The baseline predicts future spending based on the law at the time. As the nearby chart shows, in a mere 31 months Congress has added more than $4.4 trillion to the 10-year spending baseline. The 2008 and 2009 numbers are actual spending, the others are estimates. As recently as 2005, total federal spending was only $2.47 trillion.
Keep that $4.4 trillion in mind the next time you hear Mr. Obama or Speaker Nancy Pelosi say they “inherited” this budget mess. Let’s assume the recession that Mr. Obama inherited—Mrs. Pelosi was already in power—was responsible for causing $1 trillion or so in deficit spending. That still doesn’t explain why the annual deficit of roughly $1.4 trillion will be nearly as high in fiscal 2010, after a year of economic growth, as it was in 2009. Or why CBO says the deficit will still be nearly $1.1 trillion in 2011 even if all of the Bush-era tax cuts are repealed.
The deficit is barely declining because of the lackluster economic recovery, which continues to yield too little revenue, and especially because of the record levels of spending passed by the Democratic Congress and eagerly signed by Mr. Obama.
With more realistic assumptions, the budget baseline shows that:
- Even as war spending phases out and the economy recovers, the projected budget deficit never drops below $1 trillion, and reaches nearly $2 trillion by 2020;
- The national debt held by the public is set to surpass 100 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2020;
- By 2020, half of all income tax revenues will go toward paying interest on a $23 trillion national debt;
- Federal spending per household, which has risen from $25,000 to nearly $30,000 over the past three years, would top $38,000 by 2020. The national debt per household, which was $52,000 before the recession, would approach $150,000 by 2020; and
- Even if all tax cuts are extended, revenues will still surpass the historical average—18 percent of GDP—by 2020. The reason the deficit will surge 6 percent of GDP above its average is because spending will surge to 6 percent of GDP above its average.
These spending and deficit trends are completely unsustainable [emphasis added]. Yet President Obama and Congress continue to push spending and budget deficits even higher with endless failed “stimulus” spending that is now expected to continue into the middle of this decade. They have also enacted a massive new health care law that—far from reining in spiraling health care costs—increases spending (and likely deficits) even further. In short, Washington is digging this budget hole deeper.
Take a look at the graph (click & scroll down for larger view):
What to do? The Heritage Foundation recommends,
Genuine spending reforms are the only way to bring the budget under control. Lawmakers should rescind the remaining funds from TARP and the failed stimulus bill, as well as repeal the unaffordable health care law. Next, they should enact tough spending caps to help lawmakers set priorities and make trade-offs. Congress should then disclose the massive unfunded obligations of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; put those programs on long-term budgets; and create an entitlement reform commission. Finally, lawmakers should enact the necessary entitlement and programmatic reforms that can keep government within those limits.
The likelihood the Dems in control of Congress will do that?
Close to zero.