I had a very bad lunch today.
But not because of what I ate. My lunch was unpleasant because I moderated a noontime panel on Capitol Hill featuring Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and my Cato colleague Chris Edwards.
And I should hasten to add that they were splendid company. The unpleasant part of the lunch was the information they shared.
The Senator, in particular, looked at budgetary projections over the next 30 years and basically confirmed for the audience that an ever-expanding burden of federal spending is going to lead to a fiscal crisis.
To be blunt, he showed numbers that basically matched up with this Henry Payne cartoon.
Here’s a chart from his presentation. It shows the average burden of spending in past years, compared to various projections of how much bigger government will be – on average – over the next three decades.
The Senator warned that the most unfavorable projection (i.e., “CBO ALT FISC”) was also the most realistic one. In other words, federal spending will consume a much larger share of economic output over the next three decades than it has over the past two decades.
But our fiscal outlook is actually even worse than what you see in his slide.
The Senator’s numbers are based on average spending levels over the 2015-2044 period. That’s very useful – and sobering – data, but if you look at the annual numbers, you’ll see that the trendline gives us additional reasons to worry.