We have now gotten to the point — as I noted yesterday — where if national defense, interstate highways, national parks, homeland security, and all other discretionary programs somehow became absolutely free, we’d still have a budget deficit. The White House Office of Management and Budget projects that in the current fiscal year (2011), mandatory spending alone will exceed all federal receipts. So even if we didn’t spend a single cent on discretionary programs, we still wouldn’t be able to balance our budget this year — let alone pay off any of the $14 trillion in debt that we have already accumulated.
Just an Olympiad ago, in 2007, the picture was quite different. In fact, in that year, federal revenues not only exceeded mandatory spending, but they exceeded it by more than $1 trillion ($1.117 trillion, to be more exact). The next year, 2008, during which the gap fell to a still-huge $914 billion, the Bush administration released a report issuing a rather dire warning (p. 25). The report said that, “if left unchanged, mandatory spending alone is projected to exceed total projected Government receipts in approximately 50 years.” That dire prediction has now come true — about 50 years earlier than projected.