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A Glimpse of Our Future

Jeff pointed me to this graph from congressmember Paul Ryan.

Ryan is actually being generous to the Democrats here. You can’t imagine how things are going to look around 2150 or so!


  1. Phil says:

    No, Andrew, you've got it wrong. That's why Ryan _doesn't_ extend the graph out to 2150. In about 2080 the Democratic plan levels out at 65% of GDP and then declines slowly but steadily, hitting zero around 2300. But the Republican plan edges ever upwards after 2100, and by 2300 it is over 80% of GDP. So, shame on Ryan for only showing projections that go out 75 years.

  2. Jon Peltier says:

    Looks like someone's idea of an April Fool's joke.

  3. A quick Google search on the cited source, the Long-Term Alternative Fiscal Scenario, turns up this letter from the CBO to Ryan, Table 2 appears to basically match the graph.

    While it doesn't project out to 2150, it does go to 2080, when spending is over 75% of GDP, with 40% of GDP going to interest payments on the national debt.

    Clearly the scenario is unlikely, but blame the CBO, not Ryan.

  4. ahuri says:

    Andrew quotes on his previous blog entry: "[…] but it's sloppy at best and statistical malpractice at worst to foreground a comparison that has been presented with no rigorous–or even approximately rigorous–measure of uncertainty."
    And then here comes this graph… I wonder where's the uncertainty here.

  5. Ben Clark says:

    I think the far-out years are based on the Bush budget, as the link from Justin Talbot would indicate.

  6. Phil says:

    Seriously, though, you can see why they don't extrapolate over a more reasonable timeframe, like fifteen or twenty years: if you look at 2029, federal spending is projected to be about 21% of GDP in the Republican plan, and about 25% in the Democratic plan. It just doesn't look like a very big deal. So they decided to look way, waaaay out in the future, when nobody thinks they can really predict anything. Would anyone expect the Eisenhower administration to be able to predict today's GDP, today's federal budget, or the ratio of the two? It's ridiculous.

    We've all heard the Galbraith quote “The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.” I've got nothing to add, just thought that somebody is going to bring up this quote anyway, so it might as well be me.

  7. Bob Simpson says:

    2080???????????? You're joking right?

    You support a plan that begins to "level off" in 70 years? You're kidding around…right?

    Nobody is that dumb.

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