Given that President Obama just promised to cut the deficit in half (as a percentage of GDP) by 2013, we figured it made sense to go back and review the White House's official deficit projections.
President Obama's promise is consistent with the White House's existing forecasts, which call for the deficit to drop from -10%+ of GDP this year to about -4% of GDP in 2013.
The problem is that the White House's longer-term projections don't show the deficit getting much better than that.
Basically, the White House's projections show the deficit hanging at around 4% for a bunch of years (way too high) and then starting to grow again.
By 2085, the White House says, our deficit will be running at a staggering -62% of GDP.
Almost half of the government expenses in those days are projected to be interest payments on the debt we've racked up over the intervening years. Most of the rest are the ballooning costs of our entitlement programs (Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security). Only a tiny percent of the spending, meanwhile, is what is described as "discretionary" spending--on schools, defense, and other stuff that people normally associate with government.
That, of course, is why everyone is so freaked about those entitlement programs.
And the fact that these projections are put together by an organization that has a vested interest in NOT freaking people out is even more scary.
So, we admit it: We're freaked out.