Congress

GAO: Current Federal Fiscal Situation Is ‘Unsustainable’

America will face "serious economic, security, and social challenges" if the national debt keeps growing at this rate.

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Just hours after Congress postponed a budget vote because lawmakers wanted even more spending, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a 67-page report warning of the "serious economic, security, and social challenges" that will face this country unless immediate action is taken to bring the national debt under control.

The share of debt held by the public currently stands at about 78 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), a shorthand measure of a country's economic output in a single year. The GAO estimates that it is on track to surpass the all-time high of 106 percent of GDP within the next 13 to 20 years. (The numbers are actually worse than that, because "debt held by the public" accounts for only $15.8 trillion of the $21 trillion national debt. The rest is held by parts of the federal government, such as the Social Security trust fund.)

Government Accountability Office

Tax revenue increased by $14 billion during fiscal year 2018, which ended on September 30. But that increase was buried beneath a $127 billion jump in spending.

Federal policy makers "face a federal government highly leveraged in debt by historical norms and on an unsustainable long-term fiscal path caused by an imbalance between revenue and spending that is built into current law and policy," the GAO says in a letter to President Donald Trump and congressional leaders that accompanied the new report. "Decisions in the near term to enhance economic growth and address national priorities need to be accompanied by a long-term fiscal plan to put the federal government on a sustainable long-term path. This is essential to ensure that the United States remains in a strong economic position to meet its security and social needs, as well as to preserve flexibility to address unforeseen events."

Congress and the president have been getting that same message from several sources recently. Unfortunately, no one seems to be listening.

The White House produced a budget plan earlier this year that called for hiking Pentagon spending while cutting non-military discretionary spending by 9 percent. Even with overly rosy assumptions about future economic growth, this budget would effectively lock in trillion-dollar deficits for the next several years and would not balance until the mid-2030s, long after Trump will be out of office. And that's only if you believe the White House is serious about cutting spending. Given how quickly the president flip-flopped on his own administration's plan to cut the feds' miniscule contribution to the Special Olympics, that requires a leap of faith.

But what else would you expect from a president who has said that he doesn't have to worry about the debt and deficit because things won't get really bad until after he's out of office?

Congress is no better at the moment. Republicans might have once been counted on to hold the line on spending, but under Trump they've abandoned even the pretense of fiscal responsibility. Democrats, meanwhile, want to spend trillions more on programs like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal.

Even if those big ideas don't come to pass, spending is likely to increase. A budget bill that was supposed to get a vote in the House this week would have increased discretionary spending caps by $358 billion over the next two years—a total cost of more than $2 trillion in a decade, according to an analysis by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. The planned vote never happened, because rank-and-file Democrats revolted and pushed for more spending.

It seems like the only way Congress might prevent America's fiscal situation from getting worse is by failing to agree on how much worse to make it.

But time and tides and interest calculations wait for no one. "Over the long term, the imbalance between spending and revenue that is built into current law and policy is projected to lead to continued growth of the deficit and debt held by the public as a share of GDP," the GAO warns. "This situation—in which debt grows faster than GDP—means the current federal fiscal path is unsustainable."

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97 responses to “GAO: Current Federal Fiscal Situation Is ‘Unsustainable’

  1. Good. That means the bond markets will force Congress to do something. That is the only way Congress is ever going to act is if they literally can no longer borrow another buck.

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    2. The DEBT is not the DEFICIT. And the DEFICIT is not the DEBT. They are separate problems.

      Government BORROWING drives up the debt, not government SPENDING.

      The solution to our debt problem is simple: STOP ISSUING DEBT-BASED MONEY! Begin issuing pure “unbacked” fiat money to fund the deficit, rather than going further into debt. The inflationary impact of unbacked dollars is no worse than the inflationary impact of the same amount of debt-backed dollars. Issuing unbacked dollars will halt the increase in the national debt and its crushing $430 billion in annual interest. Paying off part of the maturing debt each year and rolling over the rest will eventually bring the national debt (and its taxpayer-financed interest payments) down to zero. See http://www.fixourmoney.com .

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      1. Jeff is probably reading your spam and believing it

    4. Exactly the issue will be addressed exactly one day after a bond crisis hits and not one moment sooner.

  2. $22 trillion national debt proves that subsidies, entitlements & safety nets shouldn’t be in the hands of the federal government.

    1. It shows they should have never expanded the vote beyond land owners.

      1. Exactly right, John.

  3. She Guevara has the answer: just raise taxes on the tippy-top!

    1. Wrong. She favors cranking up the printing press at the Treasury to 11. If we got 20 trillion in debt, just print 20 trillion in greenbacks and, voila, problem solved.

      1. What are you going to believe, your own common sense or a congresswoman with the intellect of a 15-year old?

        1. you’re being too generous

        2. That’s an insult to nearly all the 15-year-olds I know

          1. I should have said “emotional intellect”

        3. She’s the new Martin Luther king. Climate change is the new nazi segregationist. Why dont you give her total power to save us?!?

      2. It worked for Venezuela.

  4. By far, this is the most important issue in the world today. But what, maybe a few percentage of voters even care?

    1. I have thought that for a very long time. But even I am starting to wonder if perhaps I have something wrong. The horrible effects of this just never seem to manifest themselves.

      1. I’ve firmly converted to the “wake me when there’s proof” camp.

          1. The government could do worse things with its money than service the debt. Just saying.

            1. *Nitpicking warning*

              The government has no money. It’s the taxpayers’ money.

              1. Once the government takes it from the taxpayer, it’s the government’s money.

        1. I am convinced we now own the bank. The only way this ever comes to a head is if people stop buying our bonds. If it ever does come to a head, the world economy crashes. So, people keep buying our bonds because they have no other choice.

          1. For better or worse, the U. S. dollar is the world’s reserve currency.

            There’s only one government on earth capable of changing the situation.

            And clearly they’re hard at work on doing just that.

        2. I agree, I’ve been hearing this my whole life, and that foreign countries are either no longer buying or are dumping our debt, but the problem is that their money has to go somewhere and we’re still the best bet. What is China going to do, buy a bunch of African debt? It’s already throwing billions down that hole (I didn’t say it, so chill). Whether or not Brexit happens, the Euro isn’t going to replace the Dollar as the primary international currency.

          1. “It hasn’t happened to us yet, so it won’t happen.” is the sort of thinking they used to teach history to relieve people of.

            History teaches that when it comes to financial collapse of countries with fiat currencies, the question is always “when”, not “if”.

            1. Empires and psychopaths are always fully convinced they’re going to live forever.

              They’ve never turned out to be right in the end yet. Not once.

            2. “History teaches that when it comes to financial collapse of countries with fiat currencies, the question is always “when”, not “if”.”

              Cite missing.
              Fiat currency fails when there is a safe alternative; there is none now. The world exists on fiat currency, so if you were correct the world’s economy will collapse.
              Did you get the tin foil lid from Amazon? I hear they have specials from time to time,

          2. The euro is up to about 20% of world reserves– the dollar is still around 60%. The yen is maybe 4%, growing slowly.

            Most international currency transactions are really two transactions: currency X to dollars, and dollars to currency Y.

            The one exception is euro-yen; that one gets done directly all the time.

            My theory is that very slowly the three will form a triumvirate. It works geographically– their daylight hours are staggered and span the globe. Of course, any one of THREE governments could ruin that scenario at any time….

            1. The yen’s going nowhere (Japan’s been stagnant for 30 years now), ditto the Euro (that is a collection of warring uncles).
              The dollar has a lot of ruin yet in it, despite the idiot government’s attempts to cause failure.

    2. Climate change, if left unchecked, could make this planet uninhabitable within 12 years. I’d say that’s more important.

      I’d also rank the fact that Russians control our government higher on the urgency scale.

      1. We have had 12 years since 1988. And as far as Russians go, Obama isn’t in office anymore.

        1. Well, there is the black hole imaged yesterday.

        2. Were people saying the same thing back in 1988? I wasn’t born yet.

          And don’t even try to insult Obama. He was the greatest President ever.

          #UnbanPalinsButtplug

          1. “Obama…. Greatest President ever”?????

            Maybe you want to start reading a bit of history. I’ll leave out personal favorites since most of mine have R’s by their name, but my own reading, as an adult, puts Washington right at the top of the heap. Not the Parson Weems stories, but incidental comments and portrayal of GW in works about others of the time. Hubris was definitely not one of his characteristics.

            ‘Why?’ you may ask. He understood the limits of the position. He was the chief executive, bound to follow the constitution. He is not quoted as saying “I have a pen” (as in “I have a pen and a phone”).

      2. I’ll say one thing about Maddow, she was smart enough to make some serious bank off of her Alex Jones level conspiracy mongering. BS sells big time, especially when it plays into societal fears.

        Makes me wish I was more dishonest.

      3. Even if you can stop climate change without racking up debt, time ends at 2038-01-19T03:14:07Z.

        1. If Trump were truly a master troll, he would claim he colluded with Russia so he could do something about climate change.

      4. With only 12 years to go, I way we just have one bit party. Fortunately, we have someone with experience as an emcee as president.

    3. The completely sad thing is the only politicians that will even talk about it are Howard Schultz and Ted Cruz.

      1. Always never forget that.

  5. “the current federal fiscal path is unsustainable”

    this is news?

    1. Indeed, it’s been unsustainable for *decades*!

    2. Yeah, that’s my reaction: Are we pretending it was sustainable a few years ago?

      I think we passed the last chance to pull out before an eventual crash back in 2007. And even that was only a theoretical chance, not a real chance given political considerations.

      The sad fact is that, once buying votes with borrowed money is on the table, any politician who was serious about balancing the budget is doomed in a democracy, because he’ll be out-bid by one who’s willing to borrow. Then the only question is how long you’ve got to the crash, and what will be left afterwards.

      That was why I favored Trump: Relevant experience in taking large organizations through bankruptcy!

  6. As a left-libertarian, I’m not comfortable with the idea that the government is spending too much. In fact, I want the government to spend trillions more on reparations for slavery.

    #LibertariansForReparations

    1. In fact, I want the government to spend trillions more on reparations for slavery. billions on a wall.

      1. I only want the government to spend millions. Put directly into my checking account kthx

        1. #metoo

          Did I use that correctly?

        2. Put directly into my checking account kthx

          You’re a military contractor?

      2. Then you’re a fascist.

        #BorderEnforcementIsFascism

          1. #StudentsAgainstTheTreacherousUseOfFur

        1. If you don’t agree with OBL, then you’re a fascist.
          But only on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
          Then if you disagree with OBL on the other days, then you’re racist.
          That’s how it works with proggies.

    2. Reparations should be paid by the democratic party.
      After all, it was the democrats who fought to the death to keep slavery legal.

    3. Well now you’re not even trying.

  7. “…the president flip-flopped on his own administration’s plan to cut the feds’ miniscule contribution to the Special Olympics…”
    This still has me fucking steamed. The US Government doesn’t fund regular Olympic athletes. The money wasn’t significant by volume, but it was hugely significant by symbolism; demonstrating areas where congress – if being honest with themselves – can’t reasonably justify the spending. Also, fuck the National Endowment for the Arts.

  8. One of the few issues on which I disagree with Reason is Net Neutrality. Kamala Harris explains what’s at stake.

    Imagine your cable company making it impossible to stream Avengers: Infinity War on Netflix in an attempt to force you to use their own service. No, thank you. The Senate needs to restore net neutrality now.

    Of course conservatives will seize on the fact that this hasn’t happened yet. But just the possibility that it could happen is alarming. Net Neutrality is absolutely essential for a fair, functional online experience.

    #LibertariansForHarris
    #DontTakeAwayMyComicBookMovies

    1. Imagine a world where a bunch of high minded fucktards make decisions to command and control the world around you without having remotely close the the knowledge it would take to make such decisions wisely.

      Oh yeah, that’s the world I actually live in.

      1. “Imagine a world where a bunch of high minded fucktards make decisions to command and control the world around you without having remotely close the the knowledge it would take to make such decisions wisely.”

        You have either met that POS Harris or read enough to understand her ‘positions’ on the issues.

    2. You won’t be able to stream Infinity War on Netflix much longer anyway, not once Disney launches their own streaming service and pulls all its licenses from competitors

  9. The question becomes, “How will America unfuck itself once the economic collapse occurs?”

    1. Oh, that will never happen. All we have to do is print more money. Right? hello?

    2. The same way every other country has unfucked itself after a crisis. Keeping calm and carrying on. Germany and Japan saw their country’s leveled. It took them less than two decades to be major world economies again. I can’t believe the US couldn’t do the same if and when this ever comes to a head.

      1. No pain, no gain.

        Seriously, society always sorts shit like this out. In the moment, it might hurt…a lot. And the balance of power might shift a lot at the other end of the tunnel. But permanent Road Warrior apocalypse? Not likely.

        1. One of my favorite books is a book written in the 1980s by the late Mancur Olson called The Rise and Decline of Nations. Olson goes through history and shows how the occasional catastrophy has the benefit of getting rid of entrenched interests and creating a stronger economy in the long run. His point is that the longer you have peace and stability, the more entrenched interests you have and the bigger the drag they are on the economy. The occasional catastrophy sort of clenses the economy and allows it to come back healthier.

          His point wasn’t to advocate for catastrophy. His point was to limit entrenched interests and have a dynamic society so catastrophy isn’t necessary.

          1. Interesting. Like a Malthusian check?

          2. Makes sense. Kind of like a forced colonoscopy.

          3. Weathering the storm of such creative destruction [if I may borrow the term] on such a grand scale would/ will be a bitch however; so maybe preppers aren’t too far off. I’ve long suspected our apocalypse will be of a political and financial nature, not an asteroid, super volcano, virus, or even war. So I will likely spend my later years eating beans from my own plot and shooting deer and turkey around my place. And whoever comes along to help themselves to such.

        2. Does it? I guess so.

          Ancient Egypt collapsed, also Ancient Greece, Rome, and the Persian Empire. But we still have the gloriously prosperous countries of Egypt, Greece, Italy, and Iran with us today. So you’re right, there’s nothing to fear.

      2. Germany and Japan saw their country’s leveled. It took them less than two decades to be major world economies again.

        And German-Americans and Japanese-Americans will be fine twenty years after the American economy falls face first into the shitter. At least 50 million people won’t have to die.

      3. What are the chances that other countries that didn’t spend themselves into catastrophe put together a Marshall Plan for the US?

        1. The Marshall plan played very little role in their rebuilding. If international aid worked, there would be no theird world.

          1. And served as a bulwark against the USSR, that would have otherwise rolled over all of Europe.

          2. I think the Germans and Japanese may be likened to the temporarily poor; needed help to get back on their feet [after the Allies bombed the cities and infrascructure into rubble] and took off fairly quickly; unlike the intrinsicly poor who will “be with us always,”

      4. Yes, but they had Marshall and the US to move that along.

        We however will have nothing but other countries [China and Russia come to mind] doing every thing they can to fuck us over.

      5. Yeah, no big deal…just two decades of deplorable living conditions for the populace while they pay the bills of the previous generation….sounds great.

  10. Aside from making these scary charts and graphs, what exactly does the “Government Accountability Office” do? If their job is to hold government agencies and branches accountable for their actions, they suck at their jobs.

    1. They exist to find problems, complain about them, and be ignored by all politicians.

      They are actually quite good at their jobs.

      (Says the An-Cap)

      1. Including the last part, they rock at that bit.

      2. I believe they also own lots of empty buildings.

  11. “The numbers are actually worse than that…. The rest is held by the federal government….” So we still have people that think if you owe yourself money it’s debt?

    1. If you owe yourself money, what’s to keep you from paying it off?

  12. If people don’t buy a corporations products, it faces hard choices. Go out of business is one. But government is the corporation that by definition does not go out of business.
    But, you can stop paying for its irresponsible ways. You can drain the swamp yourself, even if only a thimbleful at a time.
    Simply devote some time to learning the truth about the US Individual Income Tax. Spend 25 bucks on the best book ever written about the Income tax- “Cracking the Code” by libertarian Pete Hendrickson, from his website http://www.losthorizons.com.
    Once you understand what the income tax really is, join the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have received full refunds of all withheld income excise taxes, state and federal, including even (gasp) payroll taxes.
    What is holding you back? Is it fear ( False Evidence Appearing Real ) ? C’mon, put you big boy pants on. Liberty has to be fought for sometimes, not just posted about.

    1. “…But, you can stop paying for its irresponsible ways…”

      You’ve been peddling this bullshit for years.
      Yes, you can ‘stop paying for it’ and go to jail.
      Fuck off, you lying piece of shit.

  13. A plutonium-standard dollar envisaged by Robert Heinlein would rein in the print-and-debase looters and checkmate them from threatening our electrical power supply. Rare Pu238 for Seebeck effect batteries is currently in very short supply. That too would change. Gold too easily becomes dangerously radioactive, but with Pu, that’s the whole point, and everyone expects it to at least feel warm to the touch.

  14. Allow me to don my not so tin foil hat for a moment.

    I can see about 20-25% of Democrats now serving in Congress looking at this impending catastrophe as on opportunity.

    A golden moment to clamor “I told you so now let us be in charge of your lives.”

    I certainly do not expect any politician up to that time to make any sort of decision that would result in a loss of benefit or entitlement to anyone that might possibly vote for or against them. Lemmings can be forgiven, as they are simple creatures that don’t seem to know they are running to their death [yes, I know they really don’t do that but just go with the metaphor]; we, however, are being warned and it may still not be too late to change course, but every day of delay is just going to make it more painful when we do.

  15. LOL, it took them to 22 trillion in debt to figure that out? Not that it is funny for the rest of us.

  16. Those who see the problem are also aware that the will to solve it isn’t there.

    Grabbing all the coins and jewels out of Scrooge McDuck’s vault won’t suffice. Eventually there will have to be some pain as people are taxed and (even worse) denied free stuff to which they have become accustomed.

    They want someone else to be the bad guy, delivering the message that the free ride is over. Preferably foreign investors who can’t be voted out of office.

  17. Fuck you, cut spending.
    Starve the beast.

  18. “Republicans might have once been counted on to hold the line on spending” — this is true ONLY when a Democrat is in office. Reagan, Bush 43, Trump — all of them oversaw huge increases in spending while simultaneously cutting taxes. Why is it that only Democrats get scolded for spending, because they actually want to bring in funds to pay for it? Republicans spend just as much, but it goes to the few, and with no corresponding revenue.

    Does anyone know of a good source that shows a breakdown of the deficit by the actual bills that caused the debt? You can say, “The deficit exploded under Bush but it was due to bill x, y, and z that were signed into law on Clinton’s watch” (not a real example) and I would like to see the causes, not the person who was in office when the bill came due for the deficit-creating laws.

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