By Paul Krugman
March 11, 2003 (NYT) — With war looming, it’s time to be prepared. So last week I switched to a fixed-rate mortgage. It means higher monthly payments, but I’m terrified about what will happen to interest rates once financial markets wake up to the implications of skyrocketing budget deficits.
From a fiscal point of view the impending war is a lose-lose proposition. If it goes badly, the resulting mess will be a disaster for the budget. If it goes well, administration officials have made it clear that they will use any bump in the polls to ram through more big tax cuts, which will also be a disaster for the budget. Either way, the tide of red ink will keep on rising.
Last week the Congressional Budget Office marked down its estimates yet again. Just two years ago, you may remember, the C.B.O. was projecting a 10-year surplus of $5.6 trillion. Now it projects a 10-year deficit of $1.8 trillion.
And that’s way too optimistic. The Congressional Budget Office operates under ground rules that force it to wear rose-colored lenses. If you take into account — as the C.B.O. cannot — the effects of likely changes in the alternative minimum tax, include realistic estimates of future spending and allow for the cost of war and reconstruction, it’s clear that the 10-year deficit will be at least $3 trillion.