The Congressional Budget Office is predicting the U.S. federal deficit will reach a record $1.5 trillion this year. CBO director Douglas Elmendorf unveiled the projection on Wednesday.
Douglas Elmendorf: “We estimate that if current laws remain unchanged, the budget deficit this year will be close to $1.5 trillion, or 9.8 percent of GDP. That would follow deficits of 10 percent of GDP and 8.9 percent of GDP in the past two years, the three largest deficits since 1945. As a result, debt held by the public will probably jump from 40 percent of GDP at the end of fiscal year 2008 to nearly 70 percent at the end of fiscal year 2011.”
Last month’s tax deal between President Obama and congressional Republicans was cited as the single biggest factor for the deficit’s rise. The measure included an extension of Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, cutting government revenues by nearly $400 billion this year. Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah said the figures should trigger a massive reduction in federal spending.
Sen. Orrin Hatch: “Under this administration, federal spending has reached 25 percent of our nation’s economic output. Only during World War II was federal spending a larger part of the economy. And if we don’t act, our debt could reach an astonishing 90 percent of GDP in less than a decade, according to CBO. And the government will spend almost one trillion dollars just paying the interest on that debt at that time.”
Democrats have criticized Republicans for backing spending cuts while insisting on tax cuts for the wealthy. Democratic Senators Charles Schumer of New York and Patty Murray of Washington spoke out in the Senate chamber.
Sen. Charles Schumer: “You can’t talk out of both sides of your mouth. There is — a dollar on an increase in spending and a dollar on a decrease in taxes is the same in adding to the deficit. And they just decreased taxes on the very wealthy, who just got a big tax cut.”
Sen. Patty Murray: “What I heard from the Republican side was disconcerting. They want to have a fire sale. They want to sell off our country. That’s what you’re going to do if you own a business and you’re closing it down. We need to have a country that’s here in the future.”