by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
There’s no snooze button on the national debt clock, though you wouldn’t know it by the way public alarm has quieted as the situation grows worse.
October begins a new fiscal year for the U.S. government—and a faster ballooning of how much it owes. Barring a behavioral miracle in Congress, trillion dollar yearly budget shortfalls will return, perhaps as soon as the coming year. And unlike the ones brought by the financial crisis and Great Recession of 2007-09, these will start during a period of relative plenty, and won’t end.
Debt held by the public, a conservative tally of what America owes, will swell from $15.7 trillion at the end of September, or 78% of gross domestic product, to $28.7 trillion in a decade, or 96% of GDP.
Those estimates, provided by the Congressional Budget Office, are based on reasonable assumptions about economic growth, inflation, employment, and interest rates, but they leave out some important things. They assume that the nation’s need for increased infrastructure investment, estimated by the American Society of Civil Engineers at $1.4 trillion through 2025, goes unmet. They don’t account for the possibility of another financial crisis, or war, or a rise in the frequency or severity of natural disasters, and they assume that some Trump tax cuts will expire in 2025.