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The CBO’s New Budget Projections

Tuesday January 31st, 2012   •   Posted by Craig Eyermann at 3:25pm PST   •  

Congressional Budget Office

Some headlines from Tuesday, January 31, 2012:

Congressional Budget Office Reports Another $1 Trillion Deficit

The government faces a fourth year of trillion-plus deficits in 2012, according to new projections released Tuesday—numbers which also show little relief in the future unless Washington comes to grips with needed changes in its tax and spending policies.

Like Aunt Cassandra coming down from the attic, the Congressional Budget Office steps squarely into the 2012 campaign season with the 147-page report which might have been subtitled “It’s not just the economy stupid, it’s also the debt.”

The $1.079 trillion deficit now projected for this fiscal year ending Sept. 30 is a step backwards from what CBO had predicted in August. And to punch home its message, the non-partisan agency outlines an especially grim scenario in which Congress not only extends all the current Bush-era tax cuts but pulls the plug on the $1.2 trillion in sequester set in motion by the Budget Control Act last summer.

Under this scenario—which can’t be ruled out politically—deficits would stubbornly hover just under $1 trillion through 2017, adding another $4.7 trillion altogether to the mounting federal debt.

Under the more prudent—and many would say unrealistic— scenario of ending tax breaks and implementing cuts, the cumulative deficits would be $1.72 trillion or $3 trillion less from 2013-2017. But even this path comes with a warning from CBO: that debt service costs are already on the rise and will command an ever greater share of the annual budget.

“The federal budget remains out of balance throughout the decade,” the report reads. “The resulting accumulation of debt, along with rising interest rates, drives up the cost of financing that debt; in CBO’s projections, net interest costs grow significantly from 1.4 percent of GDP this year to 2.5 percent in 2022.”

To put this in some perspective, by 2017, annual interest payments on the debt would begin to rival and soon exceed what Washington will be spending on Medicaid, the state-federal healthcare program for the poor and disabled.

CBO: Taxes Will ‘Shoot Up by More Than 30 Percent’ Over Next 2 Years:

( – The amount of money the federal government takes out of the U.S. economy in taxes will increase by more than 30 percent between 2012 and 2014, according to the Budget and Economic Outlook published today by the CBO.

At the same time, according to CBO, the economy will remain sluggish, partly because of higher taxes.

“In particular, between 2012 and 2014, revenues in CBO’s baseline shoot up by more than 30 percent,v said CBO, “mostly because of the recent or scheduled expirations of tax provisions, such as those that lower income tax rates and limit the reach of the alternative minimum tax (AMT), and the imposition of new taxes, fees, and penalties that are scheduled to go into effect.”

One important thing to note about the second story – these kinds of tax increases have been forecast by the CBO through its Extended Baseline Projection to rise above the typical level of roughly 18% of GDP for years, but has never actually happened, as U.S. politicians have acted to prevent them from taking place – “kicking the can down the road”, so to speak.

The CBO also creates an Alternative Fiscal Projection, which makes more realistic assumptions about how politicians will act and what changes in taxes and spending will actually take place. The MyGovCost calculator is based upon the CBO’s Alternative Fiscal Projection.

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January 2012