Understandably, the problems and politics of the moment dominate the news and attract the attention of most policy commentators and much of the public. Will there be another government shutdown, will House Democrats attempt to impeach the president, will interest rates remain low, and will there be a trade war with China? But there are longer-term problems as well, and one of them is the rising U.S. national debt due to annual government budget deficits as far into the future as the eye can see.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently issued its latest “Budget and Economic Outlook”projection, covering the next decade, 2019-29. And it is not a pretty picture. As of the beginning of February 2019, the cumulative federal government debt is approaching $22 trillion. This comes out to a per capita burden of nearly $67,000 for all those residing in the United States, and about $179,500 per U.S. taxpayer.
The CBO predicts that between 2019 and 2029, the government’s gross national debt will increase to almost $33.7 trillion because of annual budget deficits that beginning in the years immediately ahead will be over $1 trillion a year all the way to 2029 and will continue that way for every year after that to 2049 in the CBO’s much longer-term forecast.
Not that the Congressional Budget Office’s projections will be right on target. The report admits that the agency has been wrong in its past forecasts. But virtually always its error has been to underestimate the growth in the federal government’s deficits and debt. So, if its track record follows form, when 2029 rolls around and the coming 10 years are looked back on, the national-debt problem may very well be noticeably worse than the CBO is currently anticipating.
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