By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON, Wis. — Congratulations, taxpayers.
If the good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise, your federal government’s budget deficit will finish just below a half trillion dollars this fiscal year.
That’s much improved from the $680 billion budget shortfall Uncle Sam recorded in fiscal year 2013, and about a third of the $1.4 trillion deficit the federal guv racked up in 2009.
Sequestration, Congress’ forced bargain on discretionary spending cuts, a slowly improving economy, and the end of massive federal stimulus spending have driven U.S. budget deficits down from nearly 10 percent of gross domestic product to south of 3 percent.
Why, at this pace, the deficit should just disappear in no time, right?
“(I)f current laws do not change, the period of shrinking deficits will soon come to an end,” states the Congressional Budget Office in its Updated Budget Projections: 2014 to 2024, released last month.
Between 2015 and 2024, annual budget shortfalls are projected to rise substantially — from a low of $469 billion in 2015 to about $1 trillion from 2022 through 2024, the report projects.
What’s the deal? How, after a few years of improving budget deficits, are we heading back from whence we came — the “new normal” of federal budget imbalances? CBO says your answer is an aging population, rising health care costs, an expansion of federal subsidies for health insurance (Obamacare) and growing interest payments on federal debt.
Simply put: Too much spending, a lot more spending, and not enough revenue. Don’t get the Obama administration and Congress wrong. They have done much to up the ante on revenue, almost exclusively in the form of higher taxes. But something is going to have to give, if deficit and debt reduction are ever going to remain en vogue.
The usual givers, U.S. taxpayers, have every reason to be nervous.
Alan Viard, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a free-market think tank based in Washington, D.C., said there is a false sense of security in the belief that sequestration, projected to trim $1.5 trillion in discretionary spending over a decade, will be the deficit panacea.
“Anyone relying on sequestration needs to rethink that,” he said. “The long-term problem is the imbalance between entitlements and spending.” In essence, the biggies, Medicare and Social Security. “Nothing has been down to change that.”
So if nothing continues to be done, it still leaves us with an important question: How do we explain to our grandkids we buried them in debt?
“I think they will be very disappointed to see that we saw this imbalance looming on the horizon for such a long time period and we waited so long to address it,” Viard said.
Because it appears our federal government has little will to begin tackling these tough questions, Watchdog.org today provides an important public service. We offer you the top seven excuses you can give to subsequent generations about why this generation failed to free the next from fiscally crippling debt. We hope you’ll sleep a little easier:
1) Really, it sounded like it would be affordable. I mean, “affordable” was in the name, after all.
2) We knew there was just something about the Class of 2037 that appreciated a good challenge.
3) Hey, you want to talk disappointment! We were all told we’d be traveling in flying cars, that we would be served by robots named Rosie and that our dogs would be able to talk to us — albeit with speech impediments.
4) Sorry. We were really hungry. All of that legalized pot, you know.
5) We got excited about all of that hope-and-change talk. We didn’t realize that meant spending as much as we wanted and sticking you with the bill. Here’s hoping you’ll be able to change our collapsed credit system.
6) Those were crazy times back then. There was a war going on. No, two wars. Wow, man! If you remember a U.S. debt below 200 percent of GDP, you weren’t there.
7) We were under the impression your generation would live to be 700 years old and you wouldn’t mind working until at least 650. Besides, we’ll be dead soon. You clean it up.
Wait, there’s more. M.D. Kittle talks about the numbers behind the gifs.