Tags: Kotlikoff | fiscal | gap | deficit

Economist Kotlikoff: Fiscal Gap Totaled $210 Trillion Last Year

Friday, 01 Aug 2014 11:27 AM

By Dan Weil

While the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated last month that this year's budget deficit would drop to 3 percent of GDP from almost 10 percent in 2009, the future outlook is bleak, says economist Laurence Kotlikoff of Boston University.

The CBO's bad news: "without action, the deficit will grow 'notably larger' starting in about four years, a result of our aging population, rising health costs and the new subsidies for health insurance," he writes in The New York Times.

And based on the CBO's projection of what will happen without major policy changes, Kotlikoff calculates that the "fiscal gap," a measurement of government debt, totaled $210 trillion last year.

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That put the true budget deficit at $5 trillion, compared with the official total of $680 billion, he argues.

"The fiscal gap — the difference between our government's projected financial obligations and the present value of all projected future tax and other receipts — is, effectively, our nation's credit card bill," Kotlikoff writes.

"Eliminating it, would require an immediate, permanent 59 percent increase in federal tax revenue. An immediate, permanent 38 percent cut in federal spending would also suffice."

Barron's columnist Gene Epstein finds the CBO report worrisome too.

"The CBO's Cassandra-like message probably will fall on deaf ears in Washington, and for the usual reasons," he writes. "The crisis isn't imminent, and politicians don't normally address disasters due to occur long after they leave office."

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