American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) required CBO to comment on reports filed by recipients of ARRA funding about the number of jobs funded by ARRA. CBO’s reports provided the agency’s own estimates of the effects of ARRA on total output and jobs. Public Law 112-204, enacted on December 4, 2012, reduced the required frequency of CBO’s reporting from quarterly to annually over the 2013–2015 period and eliminated the reporting requirement altogether after 2015.
Analysis of the President's Budget
CBO estimates the budgetary impact of the proposals in the President’s budget using the agency's own economic forecast and estimating assumptions. CBO’s independent "reestimate" of the President’s budget allows the Congress to compare the Administration's spending and revenue proposals with CBO’s baseline spending and revenue projections and with other proposals using a consistent set of economic and technical assumptions. CBO also usually analyzes the economic impact of the President’s budget (and the feedback effect of those economic changes on the budget)—recently in a separate report, but previously in the same report.
Budget and Economic Outlook and Updates
CBO regularly publishes projections of economic and budget outcomes which incorporate the assumption that current law regarding federal spending and revenues generally remains in place. Those baseline projections cover the 10-year period used in the Congressional budget process. Most of the reports on those projections also describe the differences between the current projections and previous ones; compare the economic forecast with those of other forecasters; and show the budgetary impact of some alternative policy assumptions. The budget projections and economic forecast are generally issued each January and updated in August; the budget projections are also generally updated each March.
Periodically, CBO produces reference volumes examining options for reducing budget deficits. The volumes include a wide range of options, derived from many sources, for reducing spending and increasing revenues. (Occasionally, the volumes focus on specific areas of the budget, as do many of CBO’s other reports.) For each option, CBO presents an estimate of its effects on the budget and a discussion of its pros and cons but makes no recommendations.
A Budget Options search allows users to search for options by major budget category, budget function, topic, and date. The online search is updated regularly to include only the most recent version of budget options from various CBO reports.
Economic Forecasting Record
CBO periodically evaluates the quality of its economic forecasts by comparing them with the economy’s actual performance and with forecasts by the Administration and the Blue Chip consensus—an average of about 50 private-sector forecasts. Such comparisons help to show the extent to which various factors have caused CBO to miss patterns and turning points in the economy.
Federal Debt and the Statutory Limit
The debt limit—commonly referred to as the debt ceiling—is the maximum amount of debt that the Department of the Treasury can issue to the public and to other federal agencies. That amount is set by law and has been increased over the years in order to finance the government’s operations.
Long-Term Budget Outlook
CBO provides the Congress with budget projections beyond the standard 10-year budget window. Those projections, which starting in 2016 focus primarily on the coming 30 years (previously they focused on the next 25 years), show the effects of demographic trends, economic developments, and rising health care costs on federal spending, revenues, and deficits. The assumptions about federal spending and revenue policies used for the long-term budget projections match those underlying the agency’s 10-year baseline for the first decade and are extended in a similar way to later years. The report also shows the long-term budgetary and economic effects of some alternative policies.
CBO is required to publish estimates of the caps on funding for discretionary programs for each fiscal year through 2021 and to report whether, according to those estimates, a sequestration (a cancellation of budgetary resources) would be required. However, the Administration’s Office of Management and Budget ultimately makes the determination of whether a sequestration is required based on its own estimates.