Options for Reducing the Deficit: 2019 to 2028
CBO periodically issues a volume of options—this year’s installment presents 121—that would decrease federal spending or increase federal revenues. CBO’s website allows users to filter options by topic, date, and other categories.
Since 2007, federal debt held by the public has more than doubled in relation to the size of the economy, and it will keep growing significantly if the large annual budget deficits projected under current law come to pass. The Congress faces an array of policy choices as it confronts the challenges posed by such large and growing debt. To help inform lawmakers, the Congressional Budget Office periodically issues a compendium of policy options that would help reduce the deficit, reporting the estimated budgetary effects of those options and highlighting some arguments for and against them.
This report, the latest in the series, presents 121 options that would decrease federal spending or increase federal revenues over the next 10 years (see Summary Table below). Of those options, 112 are presented in the main body of the report, and most of those 112 would save $10 billion or more over that period. The remaining 9 options are presented in an appendix and would generally have smaller budgetary effects.
The options in this report come from various 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 in the private sector. The options cover many areas—defense, health, Social Security, provisions of the tax code, and more. The budgetary effects identified for most of the options span the 10 years from 2019 to 2028 (the period covered by CBO’s baseline budget projections), although many of the options would have longer-term effects as well.
Chapters 2 through 4 present options in the following categories:
- Chapter 2: Mandatory spending,
- Chapter 3: Discretionary spending, and
- Chapter 4: Revenues.
Each chapter begins with a description of budgetary trends for the topic area, a general discussion of the method underlying the estimates of budgetary effects, and an overview of the options in the chapter. Then the chapter offers individual entries for each option that provide background information; describe the option; discuss the estimated budgetary effects, the basis of those estimates, and the largest sources of uncertainty; and summarize arguments for and against the change.
As a collection, the options are intended to reflect a range of possibilities, not a ranking of priorities or an exhaustive list. The inclusion or exclusion of any particular option does not imply that CBO endorses it or opposes it, and the report makes no recommendations. The report also does not contain comprehensive budget plans; it would be possible to devise such plans by combining certain options in various ways (although some would overlap and would interact with others).
CBO’s website includes a search tool that allows users to filter options by major budget category, budget function, topic, and date. That tool is regularly updated to include only the most recent version of budget options from various CBO reports. Therefore, the tool currently includes all of the options that appear in this report. It also includes options that were analyzed in the past, were not updated for this report, but remain informative. Those options were either in previous editions of this report or in different CBO reports analyzing specific federal programs or aspects of the tax code.
Summary Table of Options
ARC = Agriculture Risk Coverage; DoD = Department of Defense; LIFO = last in, first out; PLC = Price Loss Coverage; SECA = Self-Employment Contributions Act; TANF = Temporary Assistance for Needy Families; VA = Department of Veterans Affairs.For options affecting primarily mandatory spending or revenues, savings sometimes would derive from changes in both. When that is the case, the savings shown include effects on both mandatory spending and revenues. For options affecting primarily discretionary spending, the savings shown are the decrease in discretionary outlays.
a. Savings do not encompass all budgetary effects.
Corrections and Updates
On June 28, 2019, CBO reposted the report to correct values that it mentioned for the thresholds used to calculate the excise tax on high-cost health insurance plans. The analysis underlying the report and the resulting budgetary estimates were not affected.
On October 23, 2019, CBO posted a file of tables showing the options’ estimated budgetary effects.