A decade ago, the Congressional Budget Office, the nonpartisan agency tasked with providing economic analysis to Congress, was bullish on the future of the federal deficit. By now, it figured, we'd be about $141 billion in the black, having eliminated the deficit in 2012.
Then, the economy imploded.
In a report released Monday, the CBO now expects that we'll be running deficits for at least the next decade — steeper and steeper deficits, in fact. (The most recent projections are the dark red line on the graph below.)
With the exception of 2012, the past several years of projections have been about the same: Deficits hitting a low in 2015, and then expanding upward. Or, on the graph above, downward.
It's a little less stark if you look at the debt that results from those deficits as a function of the country's gross domestic product.
Debt will hover in the upper 70s as a percent of the nation's economic output, curving up less dramatically over time.
But notice how quickly things change. The 2005 to 2008 forecasts had a certain set of expectations. As the economy shifted — and a new president took office — those expectations changed, and so did the forecasts. Now we're in another relatively stable predictive zone, but one that could change.
The new president (a gentleman named Barack Obama) shifted the CBO's projections by signing into law the Affordable Care Act. The CBO's new projections for the next 10 years of costs from Obamacare — the cost of subsidies and Medicaid expansion, less penalty payments and other income — are slightly lower than what it figured last year.
By 2025, Obamacare will be losing the government $145 billion a year. That's only a measure of the economic costs of the program directly; it doesn't include economic and health benefits that the program will create. It also doesn't include the taxes outlined by our Post colleague Glenn Kessler which offset some of the costs above.
Anyway, that's what the CBO figures at this point. In 2005, it was off on its 10-year projection for 2014 by $600 billion. We'll update this post in 2025 to see how they did this time around.
This post was updated to include the link to the taxes that offset the costs of Obamacare. The graph showing Obamacare costs was edited to remove a comparison of the costs, but not revenue, to the deficit.