The Congressional Budget Office gave us a forecast Tuesday of a frightening fiscal catastrophe that threatens to engulf the government in a sea of debt.
The CBO report by Congress' nonpartisan budgeteers reads like one of those disaster movies in which America is under attack by an alien enemy that destroys everything in its path.
But this isn't science fiction. It's happening now, and it is going to make Europe's financial crisis look like nothing more than an empty piggy bank.
CBO said that under President Obama's out-of-control spending policies, we are running up another $1-trillion-plus budget deficit. Our monster $15.2 trillion national debt will become a $21.6 trillion debt in 10 years. Medicare's hospital insurance trust fund will be virtually emptied by 2022, two years earlier than Mr. Obama predicted last year.
Social Security's disability trust fund will run out of cash in five years, and the Medicaid health care program for the poor will explode under a crush of applicants as a result of a massive expansion under Obamacare.
Medicaid enrollment is expected to skyrocket from 67 million people in 2011 to about 95 million in 2022.
CBO's economic forecasts, which to a large degree will determine whether Mr. Obama is re-elected to a second term, are even gloomier.
December's ballyhooed 8.5 percent unemployment rate - which some of Mr. Obama's liberal supporters dismissed as "a statistical fluke" - will climb to nearly 9 percent in the last three months of this year and rise to 9.2 percent in the first three months of next year.
Forget all the sugarcoating the nightly news shows are giving Mr. Obama's dismal economic scorecard. CBO Director Douglas W. Elmendorf doesn't mince words about the looming disaster that awaits us: "We have not had a period of such persistently high unemployment since the [Great] Depression," he said.
CBO threw cold water on the rosy growth scenarios that the Commerce Department joyously crowed about last week when it reported the economy had grown at a 2.8 percent rate in last year's fourth quarter. Instead, CBO said if there is no change in current law, gross domestic product (GDP) would slow to an even weaker 2 percent rate this year and then to a feebler 1.1 percent next year. Any GDP rate at 1 percent or lower would mean the economy had virtually stopped growing and would be teetering on the edge of another recession.
As a result of the spending policies put in place by the president since 2009, federal expenditures have exploded, and the deficits and debt along with it.
CBO says the government this year will have to borrow nearly one-third of every dollar it spends. Mr. Obama's 2012 budget will spend about $3.6 trillion, but tax revenue from a still very weak economy will be $2.5 trillion.
When Mr. Obama came into office, he said he would cut the deficit in half. But as he enters the fourth year of his troubled presidency, his dismal record on budget deficits is unprecedented: $1.4 trillion in 2009, $1.3 trillion in 2010 and $1.3 trillion in 2011, followed by an estimated 2012 deficit that will again be over $1 trillion.
President George W. Bush's budget deficit, by way of comparison, was $458 billion in 2008 as the economy plunged into a recession. It was a manageable $161.5 billion in 2007 after seven years in office.
At the beginning of 2008, Mr. Bush's last year in office, the government's national debt was $9.3 trillion. Over the past three years of his presidency, Mr. Obama has added $4 trillion to the debt, with another $1 trillion in red ink still to come before next January.
Record deficits, record debt and a prolonged four years of weak economic growth and high unemployment are not much of a record to run on this year.
The White House, however, is still living in a dream world of its own, claiming that the president's economic policies are working. "I know that the economic policies that this president has put into place, working with Congress and then, when necessary, without Congress, have had the effect of reversing the most dramatic negative trend in employment since the Great Depression," presidential spokesman Jay Carney said this week.
In fact, the national unemployment rate when Mr. Obama took office in January 2009 was 7.6 percent, up from 7.2 percent the month before. It has not only risen to well over 9 percent under his presidency, CBO now says that it will resume rising in the year to come.
Mr. Obama's class-warfare answer to the government's looming deficits and debt is to raise taxes on overtaxed Americans, nearly half of whom say they are struggling.
The White House and Democrats in Congress are still eyeing the Bush tax cuts, which are due to expire at the end of this year. That will put more revenue into the Treasury, but it also would further undermine economic expansion, such as it is, which would weaken long-term growth and reduce revenues.
The only answer to the fiscal catastrophe that faces us is to apply the brakes on spending and boost economic growth by keeping taxes low.
Instead of talking about taxing the rich, who are paying most of the income taxes now, Mr. Obama should call for tax reforms to lower the rates by eliminating many needless tax breaks, income exemptions and corporate welfare.
The plan to do that is in his own deficit-cutting commission report, which he shelved without action.
Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and former chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.
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