TIME Budget

Deficit Down But Health Costs to Bleed Red Ink Again

Barack Obama
President Obama pauses as he speaks at McGavock High School, Jan. 30, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn., about education. AP

The Congressional Budget Office sees deficits falling in the short term but climbing over the next decade

The federal budget deficit will fall sharply through 2015 before surging again in the decade to come, according to a new government report. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office report out Tuesday sees America’s coffers being strained in the years ahead by entitlements under the new health care law, soaring health costs in general, and an aging population.

The projected budget deficit in 2014 is $514 billion, according to CBO, the lowest level during President Barack Obama’s presidency and well below the $1.4 trillion deficit in 2009, which followed heavy federal spending and and a collapse in revenue after the financial crisis. After falling again next year, according to CBO, the deficit will mushroom to more than $1 trillion by 2022. The increase is almost entirely due to the cost of Social Security benefits, health care programs, and interest payments on the national debt—without those three items, federal spending as a percentage of GDP is actually lower than at any time since 1940, when reporting of such data began.

In a blow to the Obama administration—and to congressional Democrats heading into the 2014 midterm elections—the CBO sharply revised upward the number of jobs it expects the new health care law to cost the country. In 2021, the CBO expects Obamacare will have reduced the number of hours Americans are working equivalent to 2.3 million jobs. The CBO’s previous estimate for eventual job losses due to the law was 800,000.

CBO also projected that signups for new insurance under the health law will be one million fewer than expected in 2014, but that enrollment will continue to rebound after the hobbled rollout. And the report projects that the unemployment rate will remain above six percent through 2016.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney vigorously disputed that the health law will cost Americans’ jobs.

“Claims that the Affordable Care Act hurts jobs are simply belied by the facts in the CBO report,” Carney said in a statement. “CBO’s findings are not driven by an assumption that ACA will lead employers to eliminate jobs or reduce hours, in fact, the report itself says that there is ‘no compelling evidence that part-time employment has increased as a result of the ACA.’ While many factors affect job growth, the actual performance of businesses refutes those who predicted that the Affordable Care Act would dramatically hurt the economy.”

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