Although the recently passed American Taxpayer Relief Act instituted meaningful deficit reduction relative to previous policy, it still left the budget a far distance from any sustainable path. Under a plausible scenario, deficits never fall below 3.4 percent of GDP and rise to 5.4 percent of GDP by 2022. Given this baseline, an additional $150-$300 billion of annual deficit reduction, instituted after the economy has fully recovered, would put the budget on a stable path in the intermediate term while allowing for continued economic recovery. Yet even that path leaves longer-term budget problems unresolved. Without a more far-reaching agreement over such long-term issues, policymakers may have limited leeway to respond to new emergencies and meet the demographic pressures of the forthcoming decade.
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