Notes from the Budgepocalypse


A former CBO director.

The Congressional Budget Office opens its latest attempt to conjure up America's budgetary future with a grim declaration. "The United States is facing profound budgetary and economic challenges." It doesn't get any more pleasant from there.

As usual, the budget-watchers' report is not heated. But it is worrying all the same. The 2011 budget deficit is projected to come in around $1.3 trillion—slightly less than previously projected, but still the third largest deficit chasm in the last six and a half decades, topped only by the two previous years. Employment is expected to expand, but only very slowly, remaining above eight percent through 2014, and that's without factoring in some very recent bad news. By 2013, public debt will equal roughly three quarters of the country's total annual economic output, and, under the most likely scenario, continue upwards from there.

A positive note remarking that "if tax and spending policies unfold as specific in current law, deficits will drop markedly as a share of GDP" in coming years turns out to be not-so-good news after all: Those are the baseline assumptions that assume that current law remains frozen in place, preserved like Captain America after World War II. Perhaps in some parallel Earth, then, America's budget is on a somewhat less disastrous trajectory. But in this corner of the multiverse, that's not going to happen.

And so the CBO warns that the "baseline projections understate the budgetary challenges facing the federal government in the coming years." This is not, contra President Obama, a "manageable" problem. Major changes will be necessary; in order to "prevent debt from becoming unsupportable" policymakers must choose: Either "substantially restrain the growth of spending" or raise "revenues significantly above their historical share of GDP." Without major spending restraint, in other words, historically high tax rates are the only other option simply to make the math work. I think we know where this leads.

This isn't the CBO's first warning of the impending budgepcalypse, and I doubt it will be the last. For more, see here, here, and here.

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  1. What I’d like to know is when I should panic. You know, running amok through the streets, selling all of my assets to buy a survival shelter, that sort of thing.

    1. I’d run amok now.

      There may not be time for it later.

    2. Why haven’t you panicked already? IT’S TOO LATE NOW

      1. Now you tell me.

        1. Well, if it’s too late, you might as well not worry about it.

          1. I’m panicking about not panicking at the appropriate time.

            1. Meta-panicking?

    3. My version of panic involves grabbing firearms and provisions and running to the hills. Using that definition, a bunch of us have been panicking for some time now.

    4. Never. But I wouldn’t be counting on Social Security or keeping a lot of cash assets.

      1. I’ve been looking very warmly at Canadian bonds recently.

        1. I actually for the first time in my life have a decent amount of money to invest. I have no idea where to put it. Gold is yesterday’s news. I don’t see the stock market doing anything but keeping up with inflation if we are lucky. And keeping it in cash is not a good idea either.

          1. Bulk ammo. I’m only half-joking. Have you seen what’s happened to ammo prices?

            1. Yes I have. And if you didn’t run the risk of running afoul with the feds, buying and selling bulk ammo might be quite lucrative if you knew the market.

          2. Buy low, sell high.

          3. Pimping is quite lucrative, I believe.

            1. Zoidberg: “I’d pay anything to end my miserable loneliness. If only I weren’t so desperately poor…”
              Bender: “Wait. You mean people would pay good money for romance? Hmm. I think I have a scheme so deviously clever that I…”
              Judge: *cut* “Five hundred dollars and time served!”
              Bender: “Stupid anti-pimping laws!”

              1. Fortunately, that’s in the oppressive, anti-market, far-flung future. Today, pimping is a well-respected profession, accepted at the highest levels of society.

  2. “… but… but… but: DINOSAURS!!OMG!!11!!!”

  3. Needs more comic references.

    1. Obviously what we need is a fiscal Crisis on Infinite Earths to reconcile all this budget insanity and wipe the slate clean.

      1. Ugh. Those summer budgetary crossover events never make things any better. Heroes get killed off, villains make grandiose declarations about destroying the world, and we get nothing but a bunch of sound a fury. They are poorly conceived, poorly written, and ultimately confusing attempts to goose GDP without ever getting to the heart of underlying conflicts.

    2. So is the CBO the Silver Surfer?

      1. I am going to go paleo and call China Galactus.

        1. I would say China is more like Dr. Doom, who would rule the world rather than destroy it.

          I think the Debt is the better analogue for the Devourer of Worlds.

    3. Needs more comic references.

      Barack Obama is the Rob Liefeld of American presidents.

      1. Possible +1 here.

        1. Nah, he’d have a far less anatomically correct First Lady if that were the case.

        1. He can’t govern feet.

        2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F…..eldpic.jpg

          He looks like jughead?

          1. Ooh, this is good.

      2. Rob Liefeld admitted he wasn’t the best at anything he ever did, just that he ‘caught on’. Let’s see Obama do that.

      3. Then who is Art Adams?

        1. “SEQUEL!!!”

  4. I think you meant to write “Employment is expected to expand” or “Unemployment is expected to decrease” or equivalent.

    1. Looks like it has already been half corrected.

      Now it reads that more than eight percent of the population will be employed.

      However, I would not bet too strongly on that.

  5. The federal budget is not like a household budget…

    The federal budget is not like a household budget…

    The federal budget is not like a household budget…

    How many more times do I have to say it until it becomes true?

    1. You have to wear sparkly red shoes and click your heels together three times first.

      Wearing emerald eyeglasses helps, too.

    2. it’s like any other liberal talking point – there is no magical number of repetitions that turn opinion into fact. Debt is debt and, at some point, has to be repaid. And, of course, the fed budget is not a household budget – the latter is controlled by those who earned the money being spent, the former is run by people who confiscated the money of others.

    3. Budgets are for pussies – Democrats don’t need no stinking budgets.

      Budgets require acceptance of facts that Democrats have longed refused to even acknowledge.

    4. Well, there ARE some ways that the US federal budget is fundamentally different from a household budget, but none of them help the progressive position at all:

      The government can print money; a household cannot. This has obvious problems.

      The government can just go out and take more money from people (taxes); a household cannot. This has obvious problems.

      When a household reneges on debt, creditors can go to court, call the cops, etc. The US government *is* “the cops”. This naked appeal to force causes progressive heads’ to explode.

      1. What do you mean I can’t print my own money?

        1. Well, you can, but it’s risky. Maybe not as risky as trusting in the Fed, but still…

          1. Heck, just do what I do: chemically place the image of your face onto a bunch of fish!

    5. Well it’s true. The federal budget is not like a household budget. Can your household print money and inflate the currency? Can your household force other people to pay for whatever expenses you decide you need to take on? Can you pass on debt to your children and grandchildren?

      1. Can your household print money and inflate the currency? Can your household force other people to pay for whatever expenses you decide you need to take on?

        Yeah, dis family can.

    6. True… the feds can’t clip coupons, and we can’t print our own money.

      Other than that, the two budgets are exactly fuckin’ alike.

  6. This means nothing. Full steam ahead! Ignore those waterfalls on the horizon.

  7. Those are the baseline assumptions that assume that current law remains frozen in place, preserved like Captain America after World War II. Perhaps in some parallel Earth, then, America’s budget is on a somewhat less disastrous trajectory.

    You’re such a geek, Peter!

  8. Employment is expected to expand, but only very slowly, remaining above eight percent through 2014[.]

    One could say that such unemployment level is still not up to the historical levels of European countries, except that the unemployment level in Germany has become lower than the US’ these past years, despite lit’ Angela’s best efforts. So there’s no room to gloat – we’re now *gasp!* like France.

    1. If the next administration stops making war on the productive, expect a bunch of thumb sucking in the media about how the unemployment rate miraculously went down below what anyone expected.

      1. …and they will say it was due to Obama’s stellar leadership. Or something.

  9. Come on. All those green jobs and broken windows are going to save us. If we just spend some more, the economy will get going and we can have more tax money to spend. See how that works?

    1. Please don’t call it a “War on the Productive.”

      It’s a ‘Kinetic Fiscal Action.’

      1. And, because lawmakers jobs are not at risk, it doesn’t count as aggressions.

  10. Tax the rich, it’s our only hope!

  11. I don’t know what that picture is from, but that has to be the gayest comic strip ever (NTTAWWT). Seriously, could that thing get anymore homoerotic?

    1. Huh? Is there a gay “bald fivehead space lord” fetish?

      1. John sees penises everywhere he looks. Except, oddly, when he looks at Patrick Stewart.

        1. Uatu’s not a perv, he just likes to watch.

  12. The 2011 budget deficit is projected to come in around $1.3 trillion?slightly less than previously projected…

    We cannot afford to be cutting the budget deficit when the economic recovery is this fragile.

    1. All hail DC, the engine of the recovery! Without DC, there would be no business cycles. All downward spirals would end in chaos and anarchy.

      Bow down and respect!

      1. They have got top men working on it MP. Do you hear me? Top men.

  13. You know, what they really want to do is print enough money to retire the debt and confiscate all assets and income from all citizens to fund as much government as possible. Or at least that’s the conclusion I arrive at when evaluating their arguments for more spending and more taxes.

    1. If they are thinking and acting rationally, that is the only explanation for what they are doing. There is however one other possibility; that they are just batshit insane and have no idea what they are doing.

    2. Back to your keyboards. A little Point of Know Return would be appropriate right about now.

  14. Is it just me or does the phrase Budgepocalypse make me think the end of the world will come in a swarm of parakeets?

    1. You’re thinking of Budgepocalypso.

      1. I think that’s the dancing parakeets. I hear it’s the sequel to Rio.

      2. Mel Gibson made a movie about the fall of Washington DC? Was it teh Joos fault again?

  15. There are very few geekier points of contention in fandom then Big Head Watcher vs. Proportionate Head Watcher.

    1. Rick Jones vs. “Snapper” Carr, in a no-rules, no-time limit steel cage death bout. Who wins?

      1. “PRESENT!”

        1. Bitch, please. We. Will. Fuck. You. Up.

          1. Fo shizzle.

      2. Which would be worse: Rick Jones/”Snapper” Carr slashfic, or Watcher-porn?

        1. Watchers only observe, we do not involve ourselves with events…

  16. Porfirio Rubirosa

    Nickname: “Toujours Pr?t”
    Cause Of Death: Crashed his Ferrari 250 GT into a chestnut tree.
    Nationality: Dominican
    Occupation: To Sammy Davis Jr. “Your profession is being an entertainer. Mine is being a playboy.” Also rumored to have been a spy.
    Wealth: Married three of the world’s richest women
    Notable Women: Dolores del R?o, Eartha Kitt, Marilyn Monroe, Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, Soraya Esfandiary, Peggy Hopkins Joyce, Joan Crawford,
    Veronica Lake, Kim Novak, Judy Garland, Eva Peron, Flor de Oro Trujillo Ledesma, Doris Duke, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Barbara Hutton, Danielle Darrieux, Odile Rodin
    Passions: Beautiful women, fast cars, polo
    Age At Death: 56
    Quotation: “Rubirosa was Cary Grant, Errol Flynn, Charles Boyer, Burt Lancaster and Tyrone Power all in one, and I was out on the town with all of them.” ? Ertha Kitt
    What To Learn From Rubi: If all of Paris refers to 16-inch pepper grinders as your last name, you can marry the richest woman in the world. Three times.

    From a piece on the original 12 playboys from the 50s and 60s. Man, that guys list of women puts Derrick Jeter to shame. Wow.


  17. I am liking peter’s flowering as a word smith.

    His references to comics and video games are far more understandable then Tim’s references to the darkest corners of 18th century pop culture.

    Speaking of which when is old man Cavanah coming home?

    1. That’s what makes Tim great (no disrespect to Suderman, ’cause I like him too).

      Tim makes me keep my cross-referencing typing fingers in shape.

  18. OT: Gold down over $150/oz from Monday’s close…sounds like speculators’ dreams of another inflationary QE later this week are dimming. Let’s hope so.

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  20. Unfortunately, by downplaying the severity of the problem, Obama is making it worse. He is enabling Democratic hardliners on entitlements and making a final deal less likely.

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