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If Obama thinks the job of debt reduction is nearly done, he should look at this chart

Image Credit: US Treasury Department

Image Credit: US Treasury Department

The WaPo’s Lori Montgomery in a piece headlined: “Obama: Job of debt reduction nearly done”:

One thing you won’t hear when President Obama delivers his State of the Union address Tuesday: An ambitious new plan to rein in the debt.

In recent days, the White House has pressed the message that, if policymakers can agree on a strategy for replacing across-the-board spending cuts set to hit next month, the president will pretty much have achieved his debt-reduction goals.

“Over the last few years, Democrats and Republicans have come together and cut our deficit [over the next decade] by more than $2.5 trillion through a balanced mix of spending cuts and higher tax rates for the wealthiest Americans. That’s more than halfway towards the $4 trillion in deficit reduction that economists and elected officials from both parties say we need to stabilize our debt,” Obama said during his weekend radio address.

The Congressional Budget Office isn’t quite as upbeat about the status quo:

If the current laws that govern federal taxes and spending do not change, the budget deficit will shrink this year to $845 billion, or 5.3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), its smallest size since 2008. In CBO’s baseline projections, deficits continue to shrink over the next few years, falling to 2.4 percent of GDP by 2015.

Deficits are projected to increase later in the coming decade, however, because of the pressures of an aging population, rising health care costs, an expansion of federal subsidies for health insurance, and growing interest payments on federal debt. As a result, federal debt held by the public is projected to remain historically high relative to the size of the economy for the next decade. By 2023, if current laws remain in place, debt will equal 77 percent of GDP and be on an upward path, CBO projects

Such high and rising debt would have serious negative consequences: When interest rates rose to more normal levels, federal spending on interest payments would increase substantially. Moreover, because federal borrowing reduces national saving, the capital stock would be smaller and total wages would be lower than they would be if the debt was reduced. In addition, lawmakers would have less flexibility than they might ordinarily to use tax and spending policies to respond to unexpected challenges. Finally, such a large debt would increase the risk of a fiscal crisis, during which investors would lose so much confidence in the government’s ability to manage its budget that the government would be unable to borrow at affordable rates.

It looks like President Obama will leave his successor at huge fiscal problem to deal with.

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