The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report has a simple title, “The Budget and Economic Outlook: 2014 to 2024”. If the whole thing sounds about as cut and dried as possible, you’d be completely wrong. After all, the is the US in 2014, a place where absolutely anything can become a political football. A nonpartisan report from a respected institution which is full of detail and hard to read makes a perfect game ball.
The last week has been nothing but back and forth on the topic of how many jobs are destroyed, er, left behind with glee because of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). Nevermind that the bulk of the report was indeed a warning about what will happen if we don’t straighten the budget out in the next decade. That’s hard work, however, and no one will look good on teevee talking about that. So let’s get to the garbage that filled the airwaves instead.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has released their projections for the next 10 years and you can tell they were written by economists. There is plenty of good news and bad news in the report, and the details become very hard to read. Deficits will go down, and the economy will grow – but interest on the debt already incurred is going to turn into a very large and crippling bill.
To make these projections, they start with current policy and trends and simply extrapolate forward. None of it is written in stone, and some of it is clearly a warning to create new policies. Let’s run down what we have in front of us and what has to be done.
What does a future of low economic growth look like? The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) economic forecast estimates a real growth (adjusted for inflation) of less than 2% for the foreseeable future. We have discussed before how this pattern is likely to hold through the next generation and around the world as population growth slows and new opportunities will come only through technology improvements.
The implications are vast, if for no other reason than investing and saving for retirement are going to be very different concepts than we have come to expect. Everything changes – and a few things may even change for the better. It’s worth thinking through, and carefully.