Public Service Announcement: What 10 Years Means

| Mon Nov. 19, 2012 2:35 PM EST

Whenever you hear tax or budget forecasts, they're (almost) always made over a 10-year timeframe. For example, letting the high-end Bush tax cuts expire will raise about $800 billion over ten years. Last year's debt ceiling deal reduces discretionary spending by $1.5 trillion over ten years. Etc.

But how big are these numbers? You can't get a sense for that unless you know how big the budget and the deficit are projected to be over ten years, and those aren't numbers most of us have at our fingertips. So here they are, courtesy of the CBO:

  • 10-Year Spending: $46 trillion.
  • 10-Year Deficit: $10 trillion

These numbers are based on CBO's "alternative fiscal scenario," which accounts for their best guess about what policies are likely to be in place over the next decade. Now you know.

(For the record: The CBO's alternative fiscal scenario assumes that the Bush tax cuts are extended; the payroll tax holiday expires; the AMT is indexed for inflation after 2011; Medicare payment rates for physicians’ services are held constant at their current level; and that Congress overturns the sequestration cuts that were part of the debt ceiling agreement last year.)

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