The Pandemic and President-Elect Biden’s Opportunity to Chart a New Course

Brief

The Pandemic and President-Elect Biden’s Opportunity to Chart a New Course

December 30, 2020

Abstract

How much has the COVID-19 pandemic changed America’s fiscal future and affected President-elect Biden’s opportunity to set a new course for fiscal policy? Largely as a consequence of the pandemic, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) in September projected a deficit of more than $3 trillion for 2020, three times higher than the original projection of $1 trillion made earlier this year. Yet even before the pandemic, the growth in spending scheduled by this and previous Congresses already exceeded, and by ever-larger margins, the growth in revenues that could finance that spending. That unsustainable course, much more than the temporary effect of the pandemic, creates huge obstacles for charting any new long-term course for fiscal policy. Yet without major reform, programs aimed at investing in workers, children, and the young will garner ever-declining shares of government resources as spending on health, Social Security, and interest on the debt continue to swamp everything in their path.

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