Options for Reducing the Deficit: 2015 to 2024

November 20, 2014
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In addition to the printer-friendly version of the complete volume, see the Summary Table for a complete list of options and their budgetary savings or find budget options according to their major budget category, budget function, and topic.

The Congress faces an array of policy choices as it confronts the prospect of large annual budget deficits and further increases in the already-large government debt that are projected to occur in coming decades under current law. To help inform lawmakers about the budgetary implications of changing federal policies, CBO periodically issues volumes of policy options and their effects on the federal budget, of which this is the most recent. The agency also issues separate reports that present policy options in particular areas.

This document provides estimates of the budgetary savings from 79 options that would decrease federal spending or increase federal revenues over the next decade. The estimates are updates of many of those presented in Options for Reducing the Deficit: 2014 to 2023 (November 2013). The options cover a broad range of areas in the federal budget, including defense, energy, Social Security, health care programs, other benefit programs, and provisions of the tax code. The budgetary effects identified for most of the options span the 10 years from 2015 to 2024 (the period covered by CBO’s baseline budget projections in 2014), although many of the options would have longer-term effects as well. This document presents options in the following categories:

  • Mandatory spending other than that for health-related programs,
  • Discretionary spending other than that for health-related programs,
  • Revenues other than those related to health, and
  • Health-related programs and revenue provisions.

For each option, this document includes a brief description of the policy involved. For additional information, including discussion of advantages and disadvantages, see the version of that option in the November 2013 volume.

This document also includes an appendix that lists options that CBO has analyzed previously but for which no budgetary estimates are presented. Those options are drawn from two sources. Some were analyzed in the November 2013 volume but would take considerable time to reanalyze; in order to make this document available prior to the beginning of the 114th Congress in January 2015, those estimates were not updated. Others, taken from various reports issued by CBO, were listed in Appendix A of last year’s report.

Certain options from those two sources are omitted from this document’s appendix for one of two reasons. Some have been superseded by subsequent legislation or administrative action. For others, CBO’s previous estimates of budgetary savings are probably no longer useful because of changes that have been made by legislation or administrative action, economic developments, or changes in other aspects of CBO’s analysis.

The options included in this document originally came from a variety of sources. Some are based on proposed legislation or on the budget proposals of various Administrations; others come from Congressional offices or from entities in the federal government or the private sector. As a collection, the options are intended to reflect a range of possibilities, not a ranking of priorities or an exhaustive list. Inclusion or exclusion of any particular option does not imply approval or disapproval by CBO, and the report makes no recommendations.