Five Think Tanks Attack the Deficit

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.

The deficit hounds at the Pete Peterson foundation asked a bunch of think tanks to come up with their own deficit plans, and the results are sort of interesting at a 100,000 foot level. Here are their projected spending levels 25 years from now:

Of the right-wing think tanks, the Heritage Foundation is in fantasyland. They want to reduce spending to 18 percent of GDP, which is just flatly not going to happen. Social Security will not be cut by a fifth from current levels, and domestic spending will not go down to 3 percent of GDP. They’re clearly not even bothering to put forth a reality-based proposal.

AAF is slightly better at 19 percent of GDP, and they have an interesting VAT-like tax proposal that actually has the potential to increase economic growth and produce more revenue than our current system. And although they cut Social Security spending compared to promised future levels, at least they don’t pretend that we can actually cut it from current levels.

Of the lefty think tanks, BPC and EPI are too aggressive for my taste. I don’t think there’s any question that federal spending is going to increase over its historic levels (typically around 19-20 percent of GDP) by 2037. Healthcare costs are going to keep rising even if we do a great job of controlling them, and we have to face up to that. Nonetheless, I’d like to at least have a goal of keeping spending in the low 20s.

So sign me up for CAP’s vision. Their plan includes some small cuts in future benefit growth for Social Security, domestic spending at a more achievable 5 percent of GDP, and healthcare at 7 percent of GDP. That last will be tough to meet, but it’s a worthwhile goal. And their overall spending target is a bit under 23 percent of GDP. That strikes me as about right. It’s reality-based, but still makes a serious effort to keep spending under control.

There are more details at the link, but sometimes it’s worthwhile to get a big-picture view of what everyone is proposing. This is a useful chart in that regard.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.