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Says if combination of spending cuts, tax increases go into effect, trouble ahead for U.S. economy.
If the expiring 2001 and 2003 tax cuts and spending reductions start under terms of the budget agreement reached in 2011 are allowed to unfold, the US economy will be pushed into recession in 2013, according to an update from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
The agency said in its budget update that of the program and policy changes that are due to occur in January under current law, the following will have the largest impact on the budget and the economy:
- A host of significant provisions of the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-312) are set to expire, including provisions that extended reductions in tax rates and expansions of tax credits and deductions originally enacted in 2001, 2003, or 2009. (Provisions designed to limit the reach of the alternative minimum tax, or AMT, expired on December 31, 2011.)
- Sharp reductions in Medicare's payment rates for physicians' services are scheduled to take effect.
- Automatic enforcement procedures established by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-25) to restrain discretionary and mandatory spending are set to go into effect.
- Extensions of emergency unemployment benefits and a reduction of 2 percentage points in the payroll tax for Social Security are scheduled to expire.
Taking into account the policy changes listed above and others contained in current law, under CBO's baseline projections:
- The deficit will shrink to an estimated $641 billion in fiscal year 2013 (or 4.0 percent of GDP), almost $500 billion less than the shortfall in 2012.
- Such fiscal tightening will lead to economic conditions in 2013 that will probably be considered a recession, with real GDP declining by 0.5 percent between the fourth quarter of 2012 and the fourth quarter of 2013 and the unemployment rate rising to about 9 percent in the second half of calendar year 2013.
- Because of the large amount of unused resources in the economy and other factors, the rate of inflation (as measured by the personal consumption expenditures, or PCE, price index) will remain low in 2013. In addition, interest rates on Treasury securities are expected to be very low next year.
As for the US economy the rest of 2012, economic recovery will "continue at a modest pace for the remainder of calendar year 2012, with real (inflation-adjusted) GDP growing at an annual rate of about 2¼ percent in the second half of the year, compared with a rate of about 1¾ percent in the first half. The unemployment rate will stay above 8 percent for the rest of the year, CBO estimates, and the rate of inflation in consumer prices will remain low."
For fiscal year 2012 (which ends on September 30), the federal budget deficit will total $1.1 trillion, CBO estimates, marking the fourth year in a row with a deficit of more than $1 trillion. That projection is down slightly from the $1.2 trillion deficit that CBO projected in March. At 7.3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), this year's deficit will be three-quarters as large as the deficit in 2009 when measured relative to the size of the economy. Federal debt held by the public will reach 73 percent of GDP by the end of this fiscal year-the highest level since 1950 and about twice the share that it measured at the end of 2007, before the financial crisis and recent recession.