Federal debt held by the public remains on course to plateau at the historically high level of 68 percent of gross domestic product in fiscal 2018, according to the Congressional Budget Office. After that, debt as a share of GDP will resume an upward trajectory, barring structural reforms. To change that, Republicans will have to get past the aversion to tax increases that prevented them from closing a single loophole in the Murray-Ryan deal, and Democrats will have to embrace far more in the way of entitlement reform than the deal’s minor trims to federal and military pensions.
As a Democratic leader has said of fiscal reform: “[T]here are going to be some very difficult choices, and issues of sacrifice and responsibility and duty are going to come in, because what we have done is kicked this can down the road. We’re now at the end of the road. And we are not in a position to kick it any further.”
Those words were true when then-President-elect Barack Obama uttered them just before his inauguration in January 2009; and, unfortunately, they still are.