Debt Fireworks Continue On This Independence Day

On Independence Day two years ago I wrote a piece comparing America’s exploding debt projection (from the 2009 and 2010 Congressional Budget Office’s Long Term Budget Outlook) with the fireworks on the 4th of July. As I later put it in First Principles (p. 101) the debt projection’s “soaring upward climb resembles the fireworks on America’s Independence Day. But rather than remind us of America’s founding, it portends America’s ending.” Here is the chart I was referring to, hoping that the Congress and the Administration would get their act together so CBO would be able to project something more responsible in 2011.

Well, after two more years of Long Term Budget Outlooks (2011 and 2012) the CBO projections unfortunately look virtually the same. The problem has not been fixed as my grand daughter requested in my Economics 1 class at Stanford nearly three years ago. In fact, only one thing has really changed. CBO put a ceiling on its projections. They now stop reporting the debt to GDP ratio once it hits 250% or more, as if Congress finally voted for such a debt ceiling in a binding way. CBO used to go out 75 years, but now they just stop when things look really bad. So, as shown below, the latest projection (in green) now stops in 2042 when the debt hits 247 percent of GDP.

Of course, stopping the projection like this does not change anything of substance, and it certainly is not a way to fix the problem.

About John B. Taylor 117 Articles

Affiliation: Stanford University

John B. Taylor is the Mary and Robert Raymond Professor of Economics at Stanford University and the Bowen H. and Janice Arthur McCoy Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. He formerly served as the director of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, where he is now a senior fellow, and he was founding director of Stanford's Introductory Economics Center.

Taylor’s academic fields of expertise are macroeconomics, monetary economics, and international economics. He is known for his research on the foundations of modern monetary theory and policy, which has been applied by central banks and financial market analysts around the world. He has an active interest in public policy. Taylor is currently a member of the California Governor's Council of Economic Advisors, where he also previously served from 1996 to 1998. In the past, he served as senior economist on the President's Council of Economic Advisers from 1976 to 1977, as a member of the President's Council of Economic Advisers from 1989 to 1991. He was also a member of the Congressional Budget Office's Panel of Economic Advisers from 1995 to 2001.

For four years from 2001 to 2005, Taylor served as Under Secretary of Treasury for International Affairs where he was responsible for U.S. policies in international finance, which includes currency markets, trade in financial services, foreign investment, international debt and development, and oversight of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. He was also responsible for coordinating financial policy with the G-7 countries, was chair of the working party on international macroeconomics at the OECD, and was a member of the Board of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. His book Global Financial Warriors: The Untold Story of International Finance in the Post-9/11 World chronicles his years as head of the international division at Treasury.

Taylor was awarded the Alexander Hamilton Award for his overall leadership in international finance at the U.S. Treasury. He was also awarded the Treasury Distinguished Service Award for designing and implementing the currency reforms in Iraq, and the Medal of the Republic of Uruguay for his work in resolving the 2002 financial crisis. In 2005, he was awarded the George P. Shultz Distinguished Public Service Award. Taylor has also won many teaching awards; he was awarded the Hoagland Prize for excellence in undergraduate teaching and the Rhodes Prize for his high teaching ratings in Stanford's introductory economics course. He also received a Guggenheim Fellowship for his research, and he is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Econometric Society; he formerly served as vice president of the American Economic Association.

Before joining the Stanford faculty in 1984, Taylor held positions as professor of economics at Princeton University and Columbia University. Taylor received a B.A. in economics summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1968 and a Ph.D. in economics from Stanford University in 1973.

Visit: John Taylor's Page, Blog

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