Now that the 2012 elections are over, remember the looming fiscal cliff.
Substantial changes to tax and spending policies are scheduled to take effect in January 2013, significantly reducing the federal budget deficit. According to CBO’s projections, if all of that fiscal tightening occurs, real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP) will drop by 0.5 percent in 2013 (as measured by the change from the fourth quarter of 2012 to the fourth quarter of 2013)—reflecting a decline in the first half of the year and renewed growth at a modest pace later in the year. That contraction of the economy will cause employment to decline and the unemployment rate to rise to 9.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013…
On the basis of its analysis, CBO concludes the following:
Eliminating the automatic enforcement procedures established by the Budget Control Act of 2011 that are scheduled to reduce both discretionary and mandatory spending starting in January and maintaining Medicare’s payment rates for physicians’ services at the current level would boost real GDP by about three-quarters of a percent by the end of 2013.
Extending all expiring tax provisions other than the cut in the payroll tax that has been in effect since January 2011—that is, extending the tax reductions originally enacted in 2001, 2003, and 2009 and extending all other expiring provisions, including those that expired at the end of 2011, except for the payroll tax cut—and indexing the alternative minimum tax (AMT) for inflation beginning in 2012 would boost real GDP by a little less than 1½ percent by the end of 2013.
Making all of the changes described in the two preceding bullets—which captures all of the policies included in the first two years of CBO’s alternative fiscal scenario—would boost real GDP by about 2¼ percent by the end of 2013 (as CBO estimated in August). Thus, of the total difference in the projected growth of GDP next year under current law and under the alternative fiscal scenario, about two-thirds owes to changes in tax policies and about one-third owes to changes in spending policies.