Reconsider the 22nd Amendment?
James Freeman in the WSJ complains about the injustice of our “pesky” 22nd Amendment, which renders President Joe Biden unable to run for president in 2028 or for that matter 2032.
Otherwise, he might have to accept accountability for the fiscal disaster he has done more than any living person to create.
Forecast for a Dreary Financial Future
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) offers its latest forecast for the coming decade:
The deficit totals $1.6 trillion in fiscal year 2024, grows to $1.8 trillion in 2025, and then returns to $1.6 trillion by 2027. Thereafter, deficits steadily mount, reaching $2.6 trillion in 2034.
Measured in relation to gross domestic product (GDP), the deficit amounts to 5.6 percent in 2024, grows to 6.1 percent in 2025, and then shrinks to 5.2 percent in 2027 and 2028. After 2028, deficits climb as a percentage of GDP, returning to 6.1 percent in 2034. Since the Great Depression, deficits have exceeded that level only during and shortly after World War II, the 2007–2009 financial crisis, and the coronavirus pandemic.
Faced with an Actual Emergency
Mr. Freeman points out that we live in a time with “no depression, no world war (at least not yet), no banking crisis, no more Covid panic, and low unemployment—and the feds are still spending trillions beyond what they collect in taxes.”
What are they planning to do if we face an actual emergency?
The CBO continues:
Debt held by the public increases from 99 percent of GDP at the end of 2024 to 116 percent of GDP—the highest level ever recorded—by the end of 2034.
This all-time record of fiscal irresponsibility could have arrived in the middle of a fourth Biden term, Mr. Freeman reminds readers. “if not for that pesky 22nd Amendment.”
Then at least some measure of political accountability might have been imposed.
On the other hand, even these dire projections assume there’s no new Biden frenzy of government expansion like the one that created the American Rescue Plan, the Inflation Reduction Act and other ironically titled contributions to taxpayer suffering. With any luck and a Democratic Congress Mr. Biden could theoretically achieve the recklessness record in just two terms.
A Few Unpleasant Consequences
Maya MacGuineas of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget highlights a few of the unpleasant consequences on the horizon:
Within the decade, the Social Security retirement and highway trust funds will be insolvent, requiring painful across-the-board cuts.
The CBO notes changes in its projections since last May, based on the debt-limit agreement extracted by Congress:
The deficit for 2024 is $0.1 trillion smaller than CBO projected in May 2023, and the cumulative deficit for the 2024–2033 period is $1.4 trillion (or 7 percent) smaller.
The biggest factor contributing to smaller projected deficits is a reduction in discretionary spending stemming from the Fiscal Responsibility Act and the Further Continuing Appropriations and Other Extensions Act, 2024.
Crushing the Kids with Debt
As James Freeman notes, this is just the “beginning of the work required to avoid crushing our kids with debt.”
But $100 billion this year is a start and considering how few of Washington’s levers of power are controlled by people who want smaller government, it couldn’t have been easy.