In documents accompanying the funding proposals for each executive agency, the administration lays out its budgetary and economic assumptions undergirding the entire budget. The forecast from the White House comes just two weeks after the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) – the official legislative scorekeeper – released its updated budget and economic outlook. To be clear, President’s budgets are always aspirational, but they can’t be delusional. Comparing the two projections, it’s clear that like most years, the administration is living in a budget-deficit dreamland.
According to the CBO, the U.S. budget deficit is expected to total $1.0 trillion in 2020 and top $1.7 trillion by the end of the decade. The White House paints a different picture. After peaking at $1.1 trillion in 2020, the administration expects the deficit to drop to $260 billion by 2030 (see below). When it comes to presidential budgets, such rosy accounting is par for the course; it’s easy to make the math work on paper when you assume record economic growth, huge spikes in tax revenues as a result, and the success of sweeping proposals to save on Medicare and other entitlements that are, er, legislatively unlikely.
The net result is a budget built for a press release rather than one grappling with the tough fiscal realities. If we want a budget deficit closer to the White House’s projections, ditching the dreamland and leading with concrete legislative proposals would be a good start.