K-12 tax & $pending climate: A Comprehensive Federal Budget Plan to Avert a Debt Crisis

Brian Riedl:

Annual budget deficits doubled to $2 trillion over 2022–23 and are headed toward $3 trillion a decade from now. Social Security and Medicare face a combined $124 trillion cash deficit over the next 30 years. The national debt is projected to soar past 165% of gross domestic product (GDP) within three decades—or as high as 300% of GDP if interest rates remain elevated and Congress extends expiring policies. At that point, interest costs could consume half to three-quarters of all federal tax revenues. Unless reforms are enacted, Washington’s escalating borrowing demands will come to overwhelm the capacity of financial markets to supply this much lending at plausible interest rates. When that event occurs, or even approaches, interest rates will soar and the federal government will not be able to pay its bills, with dire consequences for the U.S. economy.

In short, Washington is on a totally unsustainable fiscal path, and a debt crisis is coming.

There is a way to avert this debt crisis. However, lawmakers must act quickly to reform Social Security and Medicare, as every year 4 million more baby boomers retire into those programs, and the eventual cost of reform rises by trillions of dollars. This report presents a realistic, nonpartisan, and specific 30-year blueprint—each element of which is “scored” using data from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO)—to stabilize the national debt at the current 100% of GDP, and even reduce it eventually.

The fiscal consolidation in this report calls for trimming some Social Security and Medicare benefits for upper-income recipients. Some taxes would rise. Spending on defense would continue to fall as a share of the economy. In short, there is something in this blueprint for everyone to oppose. But letting the country plunge into a debt crisis would be far more painful than this blueprint’s reforms.