Federal Government Revises Deficit Forecasts as Expected

In February I wrote:

The president’s budget estimates tax receipts of $2.2 trillion, $2.4 trillion, $2.7 trillion, and $3 trillion for 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012, respectively. These estimates are laughable. My projections for tax receipts, as I explained in The Coming US Tax Receipt Shortfall:

Federal tax receipts will fall to $2.25 trillion in 2009, to $2 trillion in 2010, to $1.75 trillion in 2011, and to $1.5 trillion in 2012. (…)

Now that we have updated figures on coming expenses it’s time to update the deficit predictions:

  • $1.65 trillion for 2009
  • $1.6 trillion for 2010
  • $1.95 trillion for 2011
  • $2.2 trillion for 2012

If President Obama keeps spending like this, and really wants to cut the deficit in half by 2013, he will at one point be faced with no other choice but to raise taxes on all Americans, rich, middle class, and poor.

Half a year later, this “surprising” and “unexpected” data finally makes it to government’s own accounting office:

In a chilling forecast, the White House is predicting a 10-year federal deficit of $9 trillion — more than the sum of all previous deficits since America’s founding. And it says by the next decade’s end the national debt will equal three-quarters of the entire U.S. economy.

But before President Barack Obama can do much about it, he’ll have to weather recession aftershocks including unemployment that his advisers said Tuesday is still heading for 10 percent.

Overall, White House and congressional budget analysts said in a brace of new estimates that the economy will shrink by 2.5 to 2.8 percent this year even as it begins to climb out of the recession. Those estimates reflect this year’s deeper-than-expected economic plunge.

The grim deficit news presents Obama with both immediate and longer-term challenges. The still fragile economy cannot afford deficit-fighting cures such as spending cuts or tax increases. But nervous holders of U.S. debt, particularly foreign bondholders, could demand interest rate increases that would quickly be felt in the pocketbooks of American consumers.

Amid the gloomy numbers on Tuesday, Obama signaled his satisfaction with improvements in the economy by announcing he would nominate Republican Ben Bernanke to a second term as chairman of the Federal Reserve. The announcement, welcomed on Wall Street, diverted attention from the budget news and helped neutralize any disturbance in the financial markets from the high deficit projections.

The White House Office of Management and Budget indicated that the president will have to struggle to meet his vow of cutting the deficit in half in 2013 — a promise that earlier budget projections suggested he could accomplish with ease.

“This recession was simply worse than the information that we and other forecasters had back in last fall and early this winter,” said Obama economic adviser Christina Romer.

The deficit numbers also could complicate Obama’s drive to persuade Congress to enact a major overhaul of the health care system — one that could cost $1 trillion or more over 10 years. Obama has said he doesn’t want the measure to add to the deficit, but lawmakers have been unable to agree on revenues that would cover the cost.

What’s more, the high unemployment is expected to last well into the congressional election campaign next year, turning the contests into a referendum on Obama’s economic policies.

Republicans were ready to pounce.

“The alarm bells on our nation’s fiscal condition have now become a siren,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. “If anyone had any doubts that this burden on future generations is unsustainable, they’re gone — spending, borrowing and debt are out of control.”

Even supporters of Obama’s economic policies said the long-term outlook places the federal government on an unsustainable path that will force the president and Congress to consider politically unpopular measures, including tax increases and cuts in government programs.

“The numbers today portend the biggest budget fight we’ve probably had in decades in the United States,” said Stan Collender, a former congressional budget official.

The summer analyses by the White House budget office and by the Congressional Budget Office reached similarly bleak conclusions. The CBO’s 10-year deficit figure was smaller — $7 trillion — but that is because it assumes that all tax cuts put into place in the administration of former President George W. Bush will expire on schedule by 2011. Obama’s budget baseline, however, hews to his proposal to keep the tax cuts in place for families earning less than $250,000 a year.

Both budget offices see the national debt — the accumulation of annual budget deficits — as more than doubling over the next decade. The public national debt, made up of amounts the government owes to the public, including foreign governments, stood Tuesday at a staggering $7.4 trillion. White House budget officials predicted it would reach $17.5 trillion in 2019, or 76.5 percent of the gross domestic product. That would be the highest proportion in six decades.

And of course the public debt to GDP ratio’s increase to 76% should not come as a surprise either. In fact, I would be surprised if it didn’t blow right pass that. I shall conclude with more of what I already said a while back:

From 1989 on, the Japanese government has launched one stimulus after another to no avail, leaving Japanese taxpayers with the largest public debt per capita of all industrialized nations.

A burden that the US government seems to be more than willing to have its taxpayers shoulder over the years to come unless someone picks up a history book and tries not to feverishly repeat mistakes others made in the past.

Thus the long term outlook for the US economy is the fate Japan took: A long lasting correction supercycle with one failing “stimulus” program after another, and with on and off periods where the economy slips out of and back into recessions from time to time.

There is an easy way to be on top of such developments: Don’t listen to what the government and all its apologetics tell you. Listen to your own logic and your own reason and you won’t need to be surprised as the inevitable truth comes out sooner or later.


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