If there is good news from Washington about the nation’s balance sheet, in that the federal deficit is falling, there also are two depressing realities — the aging of the baby boom generation and the still major costs of government.
True, the budget deficit for 2014 — the fiscal year that ends in September — will show a deficit of $514 billion, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
That fall is significant during the Obama years. The good news is partly because of growth since the recession and partly because of budget cuts.
It’s still too much money, even if, as the CBO noted, the deficit as a percentage of the economy is about at historical averages. The deficit ballooned in the administration of President George W. Bush, then in the market crash that has hobbled the budget during the first five years of President Barack Obama’s term.
And there is the troubling reality that a deficit still piles up debt, even as the national budget must care for the elderly via Medicare. The programs for the elderly will explode in cost as more of the baby boomers head for retirement.
And the CBO noted that growing our way out of the problem isn’t realistic given predictions of “slack” in the nation’s economic productivity.
What probably will have to happen, at some point, is another big budget deal that combines some tax relief for businesses, to appeal to Republicans, and some new revenue to narrow the deficit, to appeal to Democrats.
Hoping for the best, like neglecting household debts, is not going to work out well.