Higher Interest Rates, not Entitlement Spending, Is Cause of Projected Rise in Budget Deficit
A NYT article on the prospects for the federal budget deficit under the next president told readers:
"Even without new spending, the federal budget deficit is expected to rise. By 2020, the Congressional Budget Office estimates, the deficit will hit nearly $800 billion, or about 3.7 percent of expected economic output, as increasing entitlement costs for retiring baby boomers take their toll on federal coffers."
Actually, the main reason the deficit is projected to rise is the Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) projection that interest rates will rise. As a result if higher interest rates, the net interest burden is projected to rise by 1.4 percentage points of GDP between 2016 and 2020 (Summary Table 1). This increase is divided into a 0.9 percentage point rise in interest payments and a 0.5 percentage point drop in revenue that the Fed refunds to the Treasury from the interest it receives on the bonds it holds.
The implication is that if the Fed doesn't raise interest rates and sell off its assets then we would not see this rise in the interest burden or the size of the budget deficit. On this point, it is worth noting that CBO has consistently overstated the rise in interest rates since 2010. It appears to have done so again in its 2016 projections.