It's no secret that a significant portion of the federal budget is devoted to our national defense and insurance programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. As Ezra Klein wrote almost three years ago, the federal government can be thought of as essentially "an insurance conglomerate protected by a large, standing army." But the army's getting smaller too.
Yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) dramatically lowered its estimate of savings if policymakers chose to increase the Medicare eligibility age from 65 today to match Social Security's full retirement age of 67. Last year, CBO estimated that increasing the age would generate $113 billion in savings over 10 years.
Last week, we noted that the furlough of "non-essential" employees at the Congressional Budget Office due to the government shutdown could halt the release of the updated Budget Options report, depriving lawmakers of important information at a time when they would ideally be using it to create a deficit reduction package.
The government is still shut down, the debt ceiling is fast approaching, and the need to put our debt on a sustainble path remains. This environment creates an opportunity for organizations to put forward a variety of budget options for lawmakers to consider. But because of the shutdown, a traditional supplier of those options is hamstrung.
The release of the Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) Long-Term Budget Outlook is one of the big events in the budget world, and we'd like to think that this blog is as well: the update of our CRFB Realistic Long-Term Baseline. Based off of the ten-year CRFB Realistic Baseline and CBO data, our long-term baseline draws a plausible path for where our future deficits and debt are headed.
Continuing with CRFB's analysis of CBO's latest long-term budget projections, we now turn our attention to one of the central themes throughout CBO's report: the consequences of large and growing federal debt. Under the CBO's extended baseline, federal debt held by the public will grow to 100 percent by 2038, and continue climbing.
Although some argue that policymakers can wait to solve our long-term entitlement problems, CBO's recent Long-Term Budget Outlook suggests otherwise. According to their projections, the Social Security program is in particular trouble -- and much worse than we thought. According to CBO's latest projections, the trust fund will become insolvent three years earlier than what we previously thought, and its long-term funding gap is 50 percent larger.
Update: The second graph has been corrected to show the correct year for each line.