The Medium-Term Debt, in Historical Context

By Joseph Lawler

Michael Sandoval of the Heritage Foundation presents a debt chart that is much more helpful than most of the scary debt charts floating around -- and it's still pretty scary:

This chart has two features that make it more reliable than most such debt charts. The first is that it doesn't project the debt out too many years. Even 30 years out from now is too far in the future to think about fiscal trends, but it's better to show 30 years than 70 years, as some of the charts used by fiscal hawks have. As this chart makes clear, the medium-term outlook is much more important. The fact that the debt is expected to exceed the gross domestic product in 12 years for so in a plausible budget scenario is significant.

Just as importantly, the chart shows that the only comparable debt run-up in U.S. history was during World War II. Once the war was over, the budget pressures quickly receded. Unfortunately, in its current situation, the U.S. is facing structural deficits as far as the eye can see, during what is expected to be peacetime.

Joseph Lawler is editor of RealClearPolicy. He can be reached by email or on twitter.

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