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February 5, 2014

Debt, Debt and More Debt

The good news is the deficit is smaller. The bad news is … there’s no good news.

The good news is the Congressional Budget Office estimates the federal deficit will fall to $514 billion in fiscal 2014, which is lower than the previously estimated $560 billion. That’s also far lower than the 2013 deficit of $680 billion and the $1 trillion-plus deficits of the preceding four years. Fiscal 2015 looks even better with a projected deficit of $478 billion. But wait, that’s the good news?

The bad news is that the “relief” – such as it is – is largely due to tax increases and the 2011 Budget Control Act. Therefore it’s only temporary, and deficits will soon skyrocket, increasing every year and reaching $1 trillion again by 2022 as the economy continues to muddle along after 2015. The CBO report says “the economy will continue to have considerable unused labor and capital resources, or ‘slack’ for the next few years.” Unemployment will remain above 6% until late 2016, and GDP growth could be a full percentage point slower than previously projected. Such is the Obama “recovery.”

Now let’s stipulate for the record that deficits of $400 and $500 billion are absolutely outrageous, and are caused by our elected representatives and the president grossly violating their oath to “support and defend” the Constitution. Calling $500 billion deficits preferable to $1 trillion deficits is like saying you’d rather be run over by a car than a bus. Either way, you’re going to be sporting nasty tread marks.

The current total federal debt of more than $17 trillion is staggering – and double what it was just five years ago. Far worse, that doesn’t include massive unfunded liabilities like Social Security and Medicare that run future outlays into the hundreds of trillions of dollars. The CBO warns, “Such large and growing federal debt could have serious negative consequences, including restraining economic growth in the long term, giving policymakers less flexibility to respond to unexpected challenges, and eventually increasing the risk of a fiscal crisis.” It’s a vicious cycle: Out of control federal spending suppresses the economy, which means the economy is less able to sustain the spending.

Which brings us to the debt ceiling that Congress plans to raise in the next few days. Republicans may “demand” approval of the Keystone pipeline or repeal of the ObamaCare insurance bailout, but then the GOP will dutifully raise the ceiling as we continue moving toward fiscal oblivion.

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