Director's Statement on CBO's Latest Volume of Budget Options

Posted by
Keith Hall
December 13, 2018

Today, CBO released Options for Reducing the Deficit: 2019 to 2028, the latest edition of a report that the agency publishes periodically. The report describes 121 policy options—covering many areas, including defense, health, Social Security, and provisions of the tax code—that would decrease federal spending or increase federal revenues over the next decade.

As deficits accumulate in CBO’s baseline projections, debt held by the public grows to 96 percent of GDP (or $29 trillion) by 2028. In later years, if current laws remained in place, the pressures that contributed to rising debt would increase. To put the federal budget on a sustainable long-term path, lawmakers would need to make significant policy changes:

  • Allowing revenues to rise more than they would under current law,
  • Reducing spending for large benefit programs to amounts below those currently projected, or
  • Adopting some combination of those approaches.

The report is meant to help inform federal lawmakers about the implications of such policy changes.

Most of the options described in the report would save $10 billion or more between 2019 and 2028. The options are not recommendations by CBO, nor do they constitute an exhaustive list. Moreover, the inclusion or exclusion of any particular option does not imply that CBO endorses it or opposes it. Rather, the options are intended to reflect a range of possibilities. The options come from various sources, including legislative proposals, various Administrations’ proposals, Congressional offices, other government entities, and private groups. Individual entries for each option include estimates of how much it would save; a discussion of the basis of those estimates and the largest sources of uncertainty; and some arguments for and against the change. CBO’s website includes a search tool that allows users to filter options by major budget category, budget function, topic, and date.

The estimates in the report could differ from cost estimates for similar proposals that CBO might produce later or from revenue estimates developed later by the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation. Also, the report 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).

Keith Hall is CBO’s Director.