The Congressional Budget Office just released the latest edition of its long-term budget outlook (pdf), and it shows the same thing as always: If Congress lets the Bush tax cuts expire or offsets their extension, implements the Affordable Care Act as scheduled and makes or offset the Medicare cuts prescribed by the 1997 Balanced Budget Act — which CBO calls the “extended baseline scenario” — the national debt will be totally manageable. If Congress passes laws extending the Bush tax cuts without offsetting the cost, repealing the Affordable Care Act and its cost controls and protecting doctors from Medicare cuts without making up the savings elsewhere — the “alternative fiscal scenario” — the national debt will be totally out of control:
This is a good time to remind everyone that when you hear politicians telling you that their plan cuts taxes or balances the budget, you always need to ask what baseline they’re using. Almost all the plans on the table, for instance, do less to balance the budget than simply doing nothing. But since they use a version of the “alternative fiscal scenario” as their baseline, they don’t have to admit that before they make the deficit somewhat better, they’re first planning to make it much, much worse.