The Deterioration in the U.S. Fiscal Outlook, 2001–2010
In: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 27
From 1999 to 2001, US budget surpluses averaged 2% of GDP. By 2011, the Congressional Budget Office was projecting persistent "current policy" budget deficits exceeding 6% of GDP, even after the economy recovered from the recession. This paper reviews the remarkable deterioration in the US fiscal outlook. It shows that more than half of the deterioration occurred before the 2007-9 recession, as a combination of tax cuts, increased spending, and worse than expected economic performance shifted the budget from surplus to deficit. The further deterioration since 2007 has two main components. Spending on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security is projected to increase by almost 3% of GDP over the first 10 years of baby boomer retirements, and interest costs are rising both because of the underlying fiscal imbalance and also as a result of the recession. The paper also discusses proposals for reducing the deficit, longer-term fiscal challenges, and the political economy of fiscal reform.
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