Late last friday afternoon, the Obama administration announced that it is raising its 10-year budget deficit projection from $7.1 to $9 Trillion. This increase puts the White House in line with the Congressional Budget Office Projection(CBO) of $9.3 trillion.
You may remember, during the budget debate the CBO projected that the Obama administration lowballed its stimulus-enhanced deficit by $482 billion over the next four years and $2.3 trillion over the next 10. The President,and his team bashed the CBO for being over-estimating the deficit, of course it turns out that the POTUS now agrees with the CBO.
Here’s the rub, the CBO estimates are very conservative, they assume that Congress will hold federal spending at the rate of inflation over the next decade. The chances of that happening are between slim and none:
The Pelosi-Obama Deficits
Even $9 trillion might be too optimistic on current spending trends
Earlier this year when President Obama was selling his first budget blueprint, he promised to end years of “borrow and spend” budgeting. Yesterday, reality struck.
Mr. Obama’s White House and the Congressional Budget Office told us that current U.S. fiscal policy is “borrow and spend” on a hyperlink. The good news is the deficit for 2009 will be “only” $1.58 trillion, about $250 billion lower than expected thanks to less need for TARP funds. But the Obama fiscal plan envisions $9 trillion in new borrowing over the next decade, which is $2 trillion more debt than the White House predicted earlier this year. The 2010 deficit also rises by about as much as the 2009 deficit falls from January, so even the TARP windfall gets spent.
We’ve never fretted over budget deficits, at least if they finance tax cuts to promote growth or spending to win a war. But these deficit estimates are driven entirely by more domestic spending and already assume huge new tax increases. CBO predicts that debt held by the public as a share of GDP, which was 40.8% in 2008, will rise to 67.8% in 2019—and then keep climbing after that. CBO says this is “unsustainable,” but even this forecast may be optimistic.
Here’s why. Many of the current budget assumptions are laughably implausible. Both the White House and CBO predict that Congress will hold federal spending at the rate of inflation over the next decade. This is the same Democratic Congress that awarded a 47% increase in domestic discretionary spending in 2009 when counting stimulus funds. And the appropriations bills now speeding through Congress for 2010 serve up an 8% increase in domestic spending after inflation.
Another doozy is that Nancy Pelosi and friends are going to allow a one-third or more reduction in liberal priorities like Head Start, food stamps and child nutrition after 2011 when the stimulus expires. CBO actually has overall spending falling between 2009 and 2012, which is less likely than an asteroid hitting the Earth.
Federal revenues, which will hit a 40-year low of 14.9% of GDP this year, are expected to rise to 19.6% of GDP by 2014 and then 20.2% by 2019—which the CBO concedes is “high by historical standards.” This implies some enormous tax increases.
CBO assumes that some 28 million middle-class tax filers will get hit by the alternative minimum tax, something Democrats say they won’t let happen. CBO also assumes that all the Bush tax cuts disappear—not merely those for the rich, but those for lower and middle income families as well. So either the deficit is going to be about $1.3 trillion higher than Washington thinks, or out goes Mr. Obama’s campaign promise of not taxing those who make less than $250,000.
A burst of sustained economic growth, which we’d love to see, would substantially boost tax revenues and reduce future debt. But there’s nothing in the Obama budget that nurtures or rewards growth or small business. Most of the major policy initiatives, such as the $1 trillion cap-and-trade energy tax, are a drag on growth. Mr. Obama wants to raise capital gains, dividend and income tax rates, which will reduce risk taking, innovation and investment. The House health-care bill would impose an 8% payroll tax on millions of small business owners, which will destroy jobs.
The White House issued a statement yesterday that the President is “very concerned about these out-year deficits.” But apparently not so concerned as to stop pushing for a new $1 trillion health-care entitlement that is conveniently not included in these latest budget forecasts.
The real fiscal crisis in Washington is that neither Congress nor the White House are offering any escape from these trillion-dollar deficits. Mr. Obama has not called for automatic and immediate spending cuts. He has not proposed eliminating hundreds of wasteful programs. To the contrary, the White House still hasn’t ruled out another fiscal stimulus, as if a $1.6 trillion deficit isn’t Keynesian stimulus enough. The Administration’s celebrated scrub through the budget this summer identified $17 billion in agency savings. That’s what Uncle Sam is borrowing every three days.
Obamanomics has turned into an unprecedented experiment in runaway government with no plan to pay for it, save, perhaps, for a big future toll on the middle class such as a value-added tax. White House budget director Peter Orszag promises that next year’s budget will have a “plan to put the nation on a fiscally sustainable path.” Hide the children.