Two weeks ago, when we commented on the biggest farce in financial thinking at the time (promptly replaced by the even more lunatic platinum coin “idea”), namely that one of the main “spending cut” proposals of the Obama administration, amounting to $290 billion, was the assertion that the US will save hundreds of billions because, get this, interest rates are now lower than they were before. We commented as follows: “this is where one’s Excel refs out, because the interest payment on Treasuries, at least in a non-banana republic, one set to see 120 debt/GDP in 3-4 years, is a function of fiscal decisions (central-planning notwithstanding), and to make the idiotic assumption that one can control interest rates for 10 years (central-planning notwithstanding), just shows what a total farce this whole exercise has become, and also shows that nobody in the administration, or the GOP for that matter, has even modeled out the resultant budget pro forma for the proposed tax hikes and budget “savings” as that would blow up said excel model immediately.” We now learn that one other entity that did not fully model out the last minute Fiscal Cliff deus ex, and especially not the recursive debt relationship in a country where half the government spending is funded by debt, is the always amusing CBO (whose epic prediction failure rate has been discussed here on numerous occasions).
It appears that they just did… after the close… on Friday. The outcome? Their initial estimate of a $4.0 trillion budget increase was wrong and when one factors in the fact that this incremental spending would have to be funded by, you guessed it, debt, debt which has interest, the full impact of the Obama tax cut rises deficits by 15% to $4.6 trillion over the next decade.
But what’s $600 billion for a nation that is now discussing idiotic gimmicks involving $1 trillion coins as a means to avoid reality.
Here is the Friday night bomb in all its glory (link):
Relative to what would have occurred under the laws previously in effect, this legislation will increase budget deficits in coming years.
Like all of CBO’s cost estimates, our estimate for this legislation shows the effects of the legislation relative to current law at the time we did the estimate. Relative to the laws in place at the end of 2012, we estimate that this legislation will reduce revenues and increase spending by a total of nearly $4.0 trillion over the 2013-2022 period. (Also like all of CBO’s cost estimates, this estimate’s numbers for the effect of changes in the tax code—which represented the bulk of the bill—were produced by the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation. They published the details of their tax revenue estimates separately.)
From that perspective, why will the legislation increase deficits? Mostly because, under the laws previously in place, numerous tax provisions originally enacted in 2001, 2003, and 2009 would have expired. As a result, in 2013 personal income tax rates would have gone up for people at all income levels, the alternative minimum tax (AMT) would have applied to many more people, estate and gift taxes would have risen, and a number of other revenue-increasing changes in tax law would have taken effect. This legislation will prevent those changes in law from occurring or reduce their scope; hence, relative to what would have happened without the legislation, it embodies substantial tax cuts. The legislation also will boost deficits by increasing spending, mostly for refundable tax credits and unemployment compensation.
That dramatic widening of the budget deficit will increase interest payments on the federal debt, an impact that is not included in CBO’s cost estimates. The additional debt service will cost about $600 billion. Thus, if we added the estimated cost of the legislation and the related debt service to our previous baseline budget projections (which followed current law at the time), we would show additional deficits between 2013 and 2022 of roughly $4.6 trillion.
And, while tangential, here is something else rather funny: the CBO attempts to predict the GDP in 2022, in both absolute terms and relative to the prior baseline. While ludicrous, at lest they get the general direction right:
What Effect Will the Legislation Have on the Economy over the Longer Term?
Although we expect that the legislation just enacted by the Congress will lead to higher output and income in 2013 we also expect that it will lead to lower output and income later in the decade than would have occurred under prior law. The legislation lowers tax rates for many people—thereby boosting output—but it also expands budget deficits—which will reduce national saving and lower the stock of productive capital, thereby reducing output relative to what would have occurred under prior law. CBO has not estimated the longer-term economic effects of the legislation itself, but we previously estimated the economic effects of the aforementioned alternative fiscal scenario, which embodied the assumption that many policies that were in effect or had recently been in effect would be continued. Under that scenario, as described on page 37 of our Update, we estimated that real gross national product (GNP) would be 1.7 percent lower in 2022 than would have been the case under prior law. .
Remind us to look back on this post in one decade to find just how misplaced that decimal comma truly was.
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Is it just us, or does it really seem like nobody is even trying to mask the fact that the iceberg has been hit head on?