CBO Outlook Highlights Massive Debt Challenges

For Immediate Release

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a full report on its Long-Term Budget Outlook today, which shows an unsustainable debt trajectory over the next three decades. Under current law, CBO estimates debt will rise from 79 percent of GDP in 2019 – and from over 100 percent today – to 202 percent of GDP by 2051. You can read more in our full paper here.

The following is a statement from Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget:

Assuming lawmakers enact the latest $1.9 trillion of COVID relief, the national debt will likely hit a new record by next year. But even without this near-term borrowing, our long-term outlook is dismal.

The top priority must be supporting the economic recovery and defeating COVID. But before taking into account another $1.9 trillion in borrowing, the debt is already slated to rise to double the size of the economy within three decades. These kinds of astronomical numbers can’t be ignored, and policymakers need to start taking them seriously.

Rather than strengthening the sustainability of our health and retirement programs before the pandemic, lawmakers wasted half a decade freely cutting taxes and hiking spending during the economic expansion, without regard to the burden we’re leaving future generations. Now we face a rapid acceleration of our debt.

In the long-term, this much debt growth will impede economic growth and hold down incomes, while making it even harder to address other future priorities. 

It shouldn’t need to be repeated, but it’s worth saying again: borrowing isn’t free. We should use it when its needed, but understand it has a cost. We owe it to ourselves and our youngest generations to come up with a plan and stop ignoring these difficult policy choices staring us in the face.


For more information, please contact John Buhl, director of media relations, at buhl@crfb.org.