National Debt

CBO Predicts Unsustainable Debt

Government making the wrong kinds of spending cuts (as in, not cutting entitlements)

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As the White House and Congress careen toward another fiscal showdown, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office warned on Tuesday that President Obama and lawmakers have been cutting the wrong kind of federal spending as they try to avoid unsustainable levels of debt in coming decades.

In its annual long-term outlook, the budget office projected that because of government spending cuts and rising tax revenues from the recovering economy, annual deficits will fall in the short term — to a projected 2.1 percent of the economy's output by the 2015 fiscal year, or about one-fifth of the peak shortfall at the height of the recession in 2009. But starting in 2016, the office projected that deficits will rise again as more aging baby boomers begin drawing from Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid's long-term care benefits.

By 2023, the annual deficit would rise to an estimated 3.5 percent of the gross domestic product, which is just beyond the level that many economists consider sustainable in a growing economy. By 2038, it would be 6.5 percent.