For 49ers and Ravens fans, the Super Bowl was the big game of the 2012 NFL season. For budget wonks, today is that day, as CBO has released its budget and economic projections. These projections show what we previously thought, that debt is on an upward path as a percent of GDP under CBO's current law and Alternative Fiscal Scenario projections.
Yesterday, CBO issued a report on refundable tax credits, examining many issues involved with the credits. The first refundable credit, the Earned Income Tax Credit, was created in 1975 to offset the payroll tax for low-income people. The number of refundable credits has increased to a high of 11 different credits in 2010, and 5 currently. The cost of these tax expenditures has also risen, reaching a high of $238 billion (in 2013 dollars) in 2008 due to many economic stimulus measures before falling to $150 billion this year.
Our recent blog "Putting the Debt on a Downward Path" emphasizes how changes in economic projections can affect the budget for better or for worse.
With all the attention on the fiscal cliff looming only weeks away, the fact that the federal government will hit the debt ceiling in the next few months appears to be on the back burner. At the same time, it's hovering over current negotiations, which is why some lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), would like to see the issue resolved at the same time as a cliff deal.
CBO has released two new reports that detail our short run problem of the fiscal cliff and the long term challenge of reducing the debt. Reading the reports together gives a good idea of the challenges lawmakers face as they work to replace the fiscal cliff with a "grand bargain."
CBO's final Monthly Budget Review for FY 2012 came out today, showing the (preliminary) final estimate for the deficit that year: $1.09 trillion, or 7.0 percent of GDP. This figure is about $40 billion less than the $1.13 trillion deficit (7.3 percent of GDP) that CBO projected for 2012 in August and about $210 billion less than the $1.3 trillion (8.7 percent of GDP) deficit in 2011.
Naturally, when a new budget projection is released, as CBO's updated baseline was yesterday, a good question to ask is: what happened? It is interesting to see how the budget projections change as time unfolds and CBO incorporates new data. As is often the case, the answer boils down to mostly economic and technical revisions to health care, interest spending, and revenue.