Federal Debt Projected to Grow by Nearly $10 Trillion Over Next Decade (New York Times): After seven years of fitful declines, the federal budget deficit is projected to swell again, adding nearly $10 trillion to the federal debt over the next 10 years, according to projections from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The numbers reveal the strain that government debt could have on the economy as President Trump presses to slash taxes and ramp up spending.
The deficit figures released Tuesday will be a major challenge to House Republicans, who were swept to power in 2010 on fears of a bloated deficit and who made controlling red ink a major part of their agenda under former President Barack Obama.
Statutory caps imposed in 2011 on domestic and military spending have helped temper the deficit. But those controls are likely to be swamped by health care and Social Security spending that will rise with an aging population.
Now, congressional leaders will have to choose between their fealty to the cause of fiscal prudence and the demands of the new president, who wants $1 trillion in infrastructure work over 10 years, a surge in military spending and large tax cuts for individuals and corporations.
At a confirmation hearing on Tuesday, senators from both parties peppered Representative Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, Mr. Trump’s choice to be the White House budget director, with questions about how Mr. Trump intended to keep his promise to protect Social Security and Medicare while addressing the budget shortfall.
Mr. Mulvaney said that it would be his role to deliver hard truths to Mr. Trump. One of those truths, he suggested, could be the need to raise the eligibility age for Social Security, a proposal that is sure to be contentious.
“I haven’t been quiet and shy since I’ve been here,” Mr. Mulvaney said. “I have to imagine the president knew what he was getting when he asked me to fill this role. I’d like to think it’s why he hired me.”
He added, “I believe, as a matter of principle, that the debt is a problem that must be addressed sooner rather than later.”
The deficit is expected to shrink this fiscal year and next before increasing in 2019 and beyond. Deficits would cumulatively total $9.4 trillion from 2018 to 2027, the budget office projects. By 2023, the deficit would reach $1 trillion, and in 2027, a projected $1.4 trillion deficit would be equal to 5 percent of the economy.
Most economists believe that deficits are helpful when economies are in recession, but some say that when they are near full employment, as the United States economy is now, deficits should be kept below 3 percent of the economy to avoid a drag on investment — or worse, a financial crisis.
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Sales of Orwell’s ‘1984’ spike after Kellyanne Conway’s ‘alternative facts’ (Washington Post link): On Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, called easily disproved claims made by White House press secretary Sean Spicer “alternative facts.”
A bewildered Chuck Todd responded, “Alternative facts are not facts. They are falsehoods.”
While the phrase “alternative facts” reminded many of the terms “falsehoods,” “lies” and “untruths,” it reminded many others of George Orwell’s dystopian, politically charged novel “1984.” Not only were people inspired to tweet about that, they wanted to purchase a copy. By early Wednesday morning, the novel was the best-selling book on Amazon.com.
“We put through a 75,000 copy reprint this week. That is a substantial reprint and larger than our typical reprint for ‘1984,’” a Penguin spokesman told CNN.
Sales of the novel also enjoyed a marked spike in 2013 — one edition experiencing a 10,000 percent jump in sales — following the leak of NSA documents.
Carl Bernstein: Republican leaders privately questioning Donald Trumps mental state (Palmer Report link): Over the past few days since Donald Trump took the oath of office, his behavior has gone from his usual erraticism to something more objectively disturbing. He now appears to be basing White House policy around his own inability to accept that he had a small inauguration crowd and that he lost the popular vote.
Quite a large number of Americans have been questioning Trump’s mental state on social media. And now it turns out some Republican leaders are privately doing the same.
The bombshell came from legendary Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein, who made an on-air appearance on CNN on Wednesday evening. He revealed that even as Republican leaders gather in Philadelphia for their retreat, they’re privately discussing Donald Trump’s mental state. According to Bernstein, one of the Republican leaders described Trump as “delusional.”
This means the GOP Congress has a real problem, because although anyone with clear eyes could see during the campaign that Trump had psychological issues, the Republicans had been hoping to use his presidency to ram through as much of their legislation as possible. But now it may be a different matter.