Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Public Data Ferret On KOMO 1000: Rising U.S. Debt Dicey

by Matt Rosenberg August 27th, 2010

In this week’s regular live KOMO-AM 1000 radio segment featuring the work of our Public Data Ferret government transparency project, I talked with co-anchor Nancy Barrick and guest anchor Bill Rice about some sobering news on U.S. government debt. Here’s the original Ferret write-up and here’s the audio. The transcript follows.

Nancy Barrick: “A recent report by the Congressional Budget Office offers a serious warning to the feds: stop spending all that money. And on the KOMO news line we have Matt Rosenberg of communityforums.org, and Matt, what did this report have to say about our national debt?”

Matt Rosenberg: “We’re highlighting this report called “Federal Debt And The Risk Of A Fiscal Crisis” at our Public Data Ferret government transparency hub, and it says that the U.S. government’s public debt – that’s what’s owed to investors in the financial markets – is now higher than ever, except for in the years right after World War Two. Our U.S. public debt reached $8 trillion, or about 54 percent of projected year-end gross domestic product for 2010, and it’s going to go higher by the end of the year to about 62 percent of GDP, so the prescription is stiff medicine, at least from the Congressional Budget Office. They’re saying we’ve got to cut spending and look at increasing revenues, and it’s not going to be pretty no matter how you slice it.”

Bill Rice: “Yeah, and apparently it just gets worse unless something is done now. How bad does the debt get by, say, 2035?”

Matt Rosenberg: “Well, they’ve got a couple of different scenarios. One is called the ‘extended baseline scenario,’ which sees a continuation of current law and no big changes, and even then, the public debt is going to reach about 80 percent of GDP, considerably higher than now, and that’s thanks to an aging population and increasing health care costs. But if there are changes made, under the ‘alternative fiscal scenario’ that the CBO outlines, it could be much, much worse, and the public debt could reach as much as 180 percent of GDP by 2035. So they’re saying we’ve got to get on it right now and cut spending equal to at least one percent of GDP under the ‘okay’ scenario and up to (five) percent under the ‘recipe for trouble’ scenario.”

Nancy Barrick: “And Matt, the thing I like is you always sift through these sorts of technical reports. As you were looking through this, is this something the general public can get ahold of, or is it pretty technical?”

Matt Rosenberg: “Well, no, you can make good sense out of it, and at our Public Data Ferret site we link also to some of the sources that we use. Actually that’s in the blogroll section of our socialcapitalreview.org blog. So, yeah, you can go right to a lot of these government sites, find recent reports written in plain English, sometimes it takes a little translation, and that’s part of what we’re here for, but you know, if I were to summarize what these guys are saying here, it’s that the federal government has been gorging on public debt like Little Debbie snack cakes, and it’s time for the fresh grapefruit and Meusli, instead.”

Bill Rice: “Matt Rosenberg of communityforums.org. For a link to Matt’s Web site, go to komonews.com/radio and click on “Nine 2 Noon.”

Nancy Barrick: “That was very well put.”

2 Responses to “Public Data Ferret On KOMO 1000: Rising U.S. Debt Dicey”

  1. [...] “Public Data Ferret On KOMO 1000: Rising U.S. Debt Dicey,” 8/27/10 [...]

  2. [...] OVERVIEW: With spending continuing to far outpace income, U.S. government debt owed to the public – as a proportion of total domestic economic output (Gross Domestic Product or GDP) – is now higher than ever except for in the years following World War II. Public Data Ferret KOMO 1000 radio segment on this report, 8/27/10 [...]