The Congressional Budget Office is out with its 2018 long-term budget outlook, and the bottom line is not pretty. CBO finds:

At 78 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), federal debt held by the public is now at its highest level since shortly after World War II. If current laws generally remained unchanged, CBO projects, growing budget deficits would boost that debt sharply over the next 30 years; it would approach 100 percent of GDP by the end of the next decade and 152 percent by 2048. That amount would be the highest in the nation’s history by far. Moreover, if lawmakers changed current law to maintain certain policies now in place—preventing a significant increase in individual income taxes in 2026, for example—the result would be even larger increases in debt. The prospect of large and growing debt poses substantial risks for the nation and presents policymakers with significant challenges.

We know why the debt is increasing — Congress is spending more on big entitlement items while slashing revenue. Those Republicans who insisted the tax cuts would pay for themselves should hang their heads in shame. And as “as members of the baby-boom generation (people born between 1946 and 1964) age and as life expectancy continues to rise, the percentage of the population age 65 or older will grow sharply, boosting the number of beneficiaries of those programs,” the CBO says. Rising health-care costs have increased spending on Medicare and other health-care programs. Interest on the ever-growing debt is skyrocketing while revenue is “roughly flat over the next few years relative to GDP,” according to the report. Unless Congress is prepared to see massive tax hikes in 2026, the gap between entitlements and revenue will continue to grow.

The debt seems abstract, but another recession would not be; neither would continued meager growth. As the CBO observes:

Large and growing federal debt over the coming decades would hurt the economy and constrain future budget policy. The amount of debt that is projected under the extended baseline would reduce national saving and income in the long term; increase the government’s interest costs, putting more pressure on the rest of the budget; limit lawmakers’ ability to respond to unforeseen events; and increase the likelihood of a fiscal crisis.

Republicans used to claim entitlement spending was the problem. However, they’ve shown no political appetite to actually reduce it. By disingenuously claiming that tax cuts would pay for themselves and refusing to come up with the spending cuts they had warned were necessary, they have taken the country into a fiscal cul-de-sac.

The Peter G. Peterson Foundation, which warned against debt-producing tax legislation, asserts: “Today’s report confirms that our nation’s fiscal outlook is on a dangerous and unsustainable path. With substantial imbalances between spending and revenues projected well into the future, we are on course to burden America’s children with trillions more in debt and hurt their economic opportunities. The debt outlook would be even more dire if lawmakers extend the tax cuts and higher spending levels that were enacted in recent months.”

Likewise, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget argues: “Lawmakers need to come to the table and address this situation before it gets further out of hand. That will require looking at ways to fix the tax law, set reasonable and responsible discretionary spending levels, curb the growth of health care spending, make Social Security solvent, and pursue a mix of further revenue increases and spending cuts sufficient to put the debt on a downward path relative to the economy.”

Unfortunately, both the administration and Congress show zero political will to address the problem. The man who repeatedly sounded the alarm about debt, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) leaves our debt outlook worse than he found it and heading toward an eventual train wreck. His kids and grandkids will be paying for this for decades through higher taxes, higher interest rates and lower economic growth. It’s quite the legacy.