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U.S. sinking in greatest debt in history

Staff Writer |
At 78 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), U.S. federal debt held by the public is now at its highest level since shortly after World War II,, the Congressional Budget Office (DBO) says.

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If current laws generally remained unchanged, the Congressional Budget Office projects, growing budget deficits would boost that debt sharply over the next 30 years; it would approach 100 percent of GDP by the end of the next decade and 152 percent by 2048.

That amount would be the highest in the nation’s history by far. Moreover, if lawmakers changed current law to maintain certain policies now in place—preventing a significant increase in individual income taxes in 2026, for example—the result would be even larger increases in debt.

The prospect of large and growing debt poses substantial risks for the nation and presents policymakers with significant challenges.

In CBO’s projections, the federal budget deficit, relative to the size of the economy, would grow substantially over the next several years, stabilize for a few years, and then grow again over the rest of the 30-year period.

In total, deficits would rise from 3.9 percent of GDP in 2018 to 9.5 percent in 2048. Adjusted to exclude the effects of timing shifts that occur because fiscal year 2018 began on a weekend, the budget deficit in 2018 would be higher, at 4.2 percent of GDP.

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