Voters are going to the polls today without sufficient information from the presidential candidates about how they would deal with the nation’s growing debt and unsustainable fiscal path.
Concord Coalition Executive Director Robert L. Bixby writes in a recent Ripon Forum article that the candidates, by glossing over fiscal issues, “have built in unrealistic expectations that when exposed to real-world budgeting will soon come crashing down, increasing public cynicism.”
Bixby says the first “reality test” will come shortly after the new president takes office, when a Fiscal 2018 budget will have to be submitted to Congress against the backdrop of rising deficits and debt.
Federal debt held by the public is projected to grow from 77 percent of GDP this year to 86 percent in 2026 — far above the 39 percent average over the past five decades. The key drivers of that projected growth are an aging population, health costs, and a tax system badly in need of reform. Interest costs will be rising as well.
“While it would be nice to think the first budget will contain a comprehensive proposal dealing with Social Security, health care and taxes, a more realistic scenario would concentrate on a few defined prospects for change that could engender a bipartisan compromise and make incremental progress on the long-term fiscal outlook,” Bixby says.
One thing, he adds, is clear: “If the next president doesn’t come up with something better than what we have seen on the campaign trail, our fiscal challenges will fester and grow.”
Summary for Fiscal Year 2016 (CBO)
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