Presentation by Keith Hall, CBO Director, at the University of Oregon's Lundquist College of Business, College of Arts and Sciences, and Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics.
In CBO’s projections, the federal budget deficit is about $900 billion in 2019 and exceeds $1 trillion each year beginning in 2022. Over the coming decade, deficits (after adjustments to exclude shifts in the timing of certain payments) fluctuate between 4.1 percent and 4.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), well above the average over the past 50 years. CBO’s projection of the deficit for 2019 is now $75 billion less—and its projection of the cumulative deficit over the 2019–2028 period, $1.2 trillion less—than it was in spring 2018. That reduction in projected deficits results primarily from legislative changes—most notably, a decrease in emergency spending.
Because of persistently large deficits, federal debt held by the public is projected to grow steadily, reaching 93 percent of GDP in 2029 (its highest level since just after World War II) and about 150 percent of GDP in 2049—far higher than it has ever been. Moreover, if lawmakers amended current laws to maintain certain policies now in place, even larger increases in debt would ensue.
Real GDP is projected to grow by 2.3 percent in 2019—down from 3.1 percent in 2018—as the effects of the 2017 tax act on the growth of business investment wane and federal purchases, as projected under current law, decline sharply in the fourth quarter of 2019. Nevertheless, output is projected to grow slightly faster than its maximum sustainable level this year, continuing to boost the demand for labor and to push down the unemployment rate. After 2019, annual economic growth is projected to slow further—to an average of 1.7 percent through 2023, which is below CBO’s projection of potential growth for that period. From 2024 to 2029, economic growth and potential growth are projected to average 1.8 percent per year—less than their long-term historical averages, primarily because the labor force is expected to grow more slowly than it has in the past.