I recommend everyone play around with this interactive concerning the national debt. Since we have hit the debt limit and are considering raising it, Republicans are using this opportunity to force a debate on the debt and cutting spending. During the previous spat, spending was reduced by $67 billion. Assume that this current debate will lead to a similar cut and reduce the "other spending" by that amount. That hardly impacts the chart at all.
Ok, so lets increase spending, as the average leftist demands. Increase taxes by 10% at all levels (including all income brackets) along with those $67 billion in cuts.
Hmm, that didn't do much, either. After 2019, we have a trillion dollar deficit minimum into perpetuity. You don't have to be a professional economist to know that isn't sustainable. So let us get out of our current conflicts (magically, I guess). Cut military spending by $100 billion. That should do it.
Oh, wait, it doesn't. That trillion dollar mark into perpetuity has been moved back all of three years. We are still looking at nearly $6 trillion in debt by the time I reach 65. Not sustainable. I hate to even think of it being necessary, but lets raise taxes by 25% across the board. Perhaps that will solve our insolvency.
Well, we balanced the budget for a few years, but after 2030 we're still one trillion in the hole every year forever. Not to mention, this doesn't nothing for our current debt. Also, that's a pretty stiff tax hike, and the result on businesses will not be pretty. Perhaps we should consider cutting Medicare or Social Security...
Ok, never mind, no politician would ever commit political suicide like that. Our current Democrats fought tooth and nail for cowboy poetry festivals being federally funded, so further cuts in the "other" category seem unlikely without a massive Republican majority. Of course, those tax increases are highly unlikely politically, but I put them in to show you one of the best case scenarios from the leftist perspective.
Our debt is structural. Unless you deal with entitlements, we are doomed. I'm playing around with wildly unrealistic numbers (10% military cuts, 15% cuts to all entitlements, 30% cuts to other spending, 10% tax increases across the board). Even then, we do not completely balance the budget in the short term and that trillion dollar mark is met again by 2033.
Now, some caveats need to be made. Most charts dealing with time frames beyond ten minutes from now have to be taken with many grains of salt. The fact is, we do not know exactly or even really generally how the economy will behave in the future. However, we do know that the United States will owe a great deal to pay for entitlement spending. We do know that government spending tends not to be cut, ever. And while we do not know how the economy will behave, it could be better or worse than the expected outcomes on this chart. The economy would have to be on fire to really bring down these deficit numbers without significant changes.
Government spending is extremely dangerous. Those advocating more spending (in particular for education and health care) either ignore the true threat of this structural debt or are ignorant of it. Either way, they ought not be listened to.