Predictions Are Hard, Especially About the Future, and Especially About Estimating the Excesses of Government Debt

James Pethokoukis at American Enterprise Institute's web site takes us back to yesterdecade to remind us that even the smartest and most expert of estimaters of future government debt can be very, very wrong:

 Here’s the Congressional Budget Office’s ten-year budget forecast from 2002 (note that this was after the Bush tax cuts were passed):....Instead of publicly-held debt as a share of GDP being a microscopic 7.4% this year [as they predicted then], it was closer to 74% – or 72.8% to be specific (as of the August update from the CBO.)

Peter Suderman's great January 2010 Reason feature on the problems with CBO predictions, on "the highly speculative nature of its work, which requires an endless succession of unverifiable assumptions."

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  • sloopyinca||

    Consequences were not unintended.

  • Ptah-Hotep||

    "the highly speculative nature of its work, which requires an endless succession of unverifiable assumptions."

    SWAG or GIGO, so it really doesn't surprise me that this is the best the CBO can do.

  • Hyperion||

    Here's a prediction for you.

    The federal government will continue to take and waste more of our money until we finally have had enough and put a stop to it, or until there is no more wealth to steal and the economy collapses.

    See, that wasn't so hard, now was it?

  • sloopyinca||

    You left out the step where they run printing presses and devalue the currency to the point of this happening, but in general you're right.

  • sarcasmic||

    until we finally have had enough and put a stop to it

    How is that going to happen? Seriously. How do you stop people who derive their power from the fact that no one will stop them?

    until there is no more wealth to steal and the economy collapses

    That seems to be the pattern of history. Great civilizations rise, great government parasites rise with them, and eventually bleed the host dry. Wash, rinse, repeat.

  • Restoras||

    Not only does it bleed the host dry, when the host is dead it moves onto soemthing else in order to hold onto the reins of power.

  • Hyperion||

    I am becoming more and more convinced, that the only way to save any semblance of freedom in the country is for the states to rebel against the feds, or just a total split up of the country by the threat of civil war.

    Turning the country around from inside of the Beltway in DC is, I truly believe, now past the point of any possibility. the progressives have full control and will drain the rest of the nation dry of any remaining wealth in a short amount of time.

    The GOP in DC has no answer to this. Their answer seems to be going in one of two directions, either they double down on the neocon/socon stupid that lost them the last two presidential elections, or they become progressive lite.

    The solution must come from the states, or we are doomed to live under a progressive hell on earth until the economy collapses, just like under the old USSR.

  • ||

    When was the last time you read Atlas Shrugged?

    My friend, we are LIVING IT!

  • califernian||

    The GOP in DC has no answer to this.

    Ha! They are part and parcel.

  • CE||

    Seriously. How do you stop people who derive their power from the fact that no one will stop them?

    Mass public street protests. Imagine the Tea Party protests and Occupy Wall Street protests, but with 1,000 times as many people, in the streets of every city. It worked in Romania.

  • ||

    I suppose they could change their ways just enough to keep us in this state of malaise for years. Maximize the pain.

    The NEW NORMAL.

  • mr simple||

    So you're saying the Congressional Budget Office, which must make predictions based on assumptions given to them by congress, a body more interested in making itself and its bills look good rather than in objective analysis, might not be the best source for reliable, fact-driven data? Color me surprised.

  • CE||

    Here's a few safe assumptions:

    1. Spending will increase.
    2. The debt ceiling will go up.
    3. Freedoms will be infringed.
    4. The president will claim more powers.
    5. Republicans and Democrats will blame each other.

  • sloopyinca||

    5. Republicans and Democrats will blame each other libertarians.

    FIFY!

  • Hyperion||

    Yeah, with at least 3 of those pesky Libertarians inside the beltway, that is definitely where the blame should be placed.

  • Doctor Whom||

    I'm one of them. Blame me. Oh, yes, and don't forget the source of everything bad, namely, too little government.

  • Romulus Augustus||

    From 2002? So, again Bush lied to us. It is all his fault. Just ask Our Glorious Leader and his syncophants.

  • Canman||

    The really frightening thing is that the populous is so used to seeing the national debt not bring dire consequences. When Clinton was ushered in on a George Herbert Walker downturn, there was a lot of pessimism and people like Lester Thurow were offering all kinds of prescriptions. I don't think they got all that much of what they wanted, but I think a lot of progressives still think Al Gore actually invented the internet.

  • sarcasmic||

    Hey now! Al Gore supported legislation that contained funding for something related to the internet!

    As we all know, if something is not done by government it will not be done at all!

    So had Al Gore not supported that funding, the internet would not exist!

  • R C Dean||

    Indeed, comrade. "Nothing outside the State".

  • waaminn||

    There is a dude that seems to know whats going on. Wow.

    www.Anon-et.tk

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