America's Changing Budget

A blog about business and economics.
May 7 2013 11:17 AM

America's Changing Budget


Doug Elmendorf/Congressional Budget Office

I think there's actually a law stating that a Congressional Budget Office director must at all times be making alarmist claims about the federal budget, so it's no surprise that Doug Elmendorf's presentation to a Harvard economics class ends with some alarmist claims. But his slides are also full of great, soothing charts. Take this one above about where we're headed over the next 10 years.

As you can see, we're set for a large increase in spending on the elderly and a substantial increase in spending on debt service. But this isn't going to crowd out the government's other domestic functions. It's going to lead to slightly higher taxes, and the risk that the Department of Defense will be unable to defend the American people against a cross-border invasion from Canada (I kid, I kid). Obviously the Department of Defense's actual activities are totally unrelated to the defense of the United States or its population—it's all about being a Global Force for Good these days.


But this is the thing that keeps not getting focused on in budgetary debates. Conservatives are very agitated about "spending" and progressives are very agitated about "austerity," but one of the biggest sources of short-term and medium-term austerity in the pipeline comes from reduced military spending. That's an issue we should debate in strategic terms outside the Moneybox portfolio, but one's strategic views also ought to inform one's budgetary views. If the sequestration cuts to the Pentagon budget are really harming national security, then it's truly perverse of Republicans to be so opposed to a tax component to sequester repeal. But if they aren't harming national security, then that ought to have some larger consequences for how we think about this.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.



Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
Buy a Small Business
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 PM Inking the Deal Why tattoo parlors are a great small-business bet.
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?