Reason Roundup

U.S. Will Add $18.8 Trillion in New Debt by 2033

Plus: Age verification for social media, a bill to ban cannabis "gatherings," and more...


By 2033, government will spend as much on Social Security as it does on military and all other discretionary spending combined. The 2023 federal deficit is projected to be $1.4 trillion, according to new estimates from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). That means the federal government is expected to spend $1.4 trillion more than it takes in from taxes this year. And it's going to get worse: Between 2024 and 2033, this gap will average $2 trillion per year.

All told, the U.S. can expect to add almost $19 trillion in new debt over the decade.

"To put those numbers in context, the total amount of debt held by the public will equal the total annual output of the U.S. economy in 2024, rising to 118 percent of the economy by 2033," notes The New York Times. "The updated projections could supercharge a partisan debate between President Biden and Republicans over taxes, spending and the nation's debt limit."

House Republicans say they won't approve a debt limit increase without spending cuts. But Democrats don't want to cut spending—and Republicans, too, are a bit unclear about where and how they would do it. Both Democrats and Republicans have pledged not to cut any Medicare or Social Security benefits, despite these programs—and the massive influx of baby boomers entitled to them—being a major contributor to U.S. deficits.

"On Wednesday, the budget office predicted Social Security spending would grow by two-thirds over the coming decade," points out New York Times White House correspondent Jim Tankersley. And inflation is only making this worse, as Social Security keeps pace with the cost of living (this year, it enacted an 8.7 percent cost-of-living hike). The CBO now projects Social Security spending over the next decade to be $412 billion more than it projected last May.

"By 2033, the forecasts suggest, the federal government will be spending as much on Social Security alone as it does on all discretionary spending — military and otherwise — combined," notes Tankersley.

The cumulative total deficit for 2023–2032 is expected to be $18.8 trillion—$3.1 trillion more than the CBO projected back in May.

This is "mainly because of newly enacted legislation and changes to the economic forecast that boost interest costs and spending on mandatory programs," said CBO Director Phillip Swagel in a statement.

"Newly enacted legislation in the past nine months will add about $1.5 trillion to cumulative deficits over the next decade," notes the Times:

More than half that increase comes from a single law: an expansion of health care benefits for military veterans who were exposed to toxic burn pits. That bill passed overwhelmingly in the House and Senate, with majorities of Republicans in both chambers voting yes.

The legislation makes it easier for veterans who believe they were exposed to toxins agduring their service to receive medical benefits, by effectively presuming that any American service member stationed in a combat zone for the last 32 years could have been exposed. It also provides a dedicated stream of funding to treat ailments tied to those exposures.

Another $550 billion in additional deficits is attributable to increased military spending, which also has strong bipartisan support.

Republicans talk a good game about cutting spending, but in practice their record is much more spotty. So it will be interesting to see if House Republicans actually stick to promises not to raise the debt ceiling without spending cuts.

Here's what Swagel had to say about the debt ceiling:

Regarding the debt ceiling, the limit on debt of $31.4 trillion was reached on January 19th of this year. The Treasury then began to take well-established "extraordinary measures" to borrow additional funds. We project that, if the debt limit remains unchanged, the government's ability to borrow using extraordinary measures will be exhausted between July and September 2023.

Swagel concluded that "over the long term, our projections suggest that changes in fiscal policy must be made to address the rising costs of interest and mitigate other adverse consequences of high and rising debt."


Proposals to limit social media use for minors violate the First Amendment. Utah is moving closer to passing a pair of social media bills that would require age verification for accounts, ban younger teens from social media or require parental consent, and more.

Ohio is considering a similar proposal. "Part of Gov. Mike DeWine's two-year budget proposal would require social media companies to get parental consent before allowing kids under age 16 to use their platforms," notes The Columbus Dispatch. "They would be tasked with creating a splash page that verifies the user's age and obtains the necessary consent from a parent or guardian."

Meanwhile, Sen. Josh Hawley (R–Mo.) wants to institute a social media age limit at the national level (part of a spate of bad bills aimed at "protecting our kids online"). As Reason's Jesse Walker points out, this would seriously impinge on adult privacy, too:

Such a database would link all accounts to real identities and be vulnerable to government overreach and hackers.


An absurd proposal in Rhode Island aims to prevent cannabis "gatherings." Rhode Island legalized recreational marijuana use last year for people ages 21 and up. Now some lawmakers are moving to limit legalization with a measure (S.B. 125) that would prohibit possession or use of marijuana at social gatherings.

"No person shall suffer, permit or host a party, gathering or event at their place of residence or other private property, place or premises or host a gathering of two (2) or more persons at a place under their control where controlled substances are served to, consumed by or in the possession of any attendee," states the bill. Controlled substance is defined to include marijuana (excluding medical marijuana), along with a host of other drugs.

Allowing marijuana at a gathering would be a civil offense, punishable by a citation and a fine of $500 for a first offense, $750 for a second offense, and $1,000 for a third offense.


• Gonzalez v. Google gives the Supreme Court its first opportunity to weigh in on Section 230. First Amendment lawyer Robert Corn-Revere explains what's at stake.

• A Food and Drug Administration panel has voted in favor of allowing the anti-overdose drug naloxone to be sold over the counter. "The expert panel to the Food and Drug Administration voted 19-0 in favor of the switch," notes MarketWatch.

• Bad schools aren't always underfunded.

RIP Internet Explorer.

Reason's Jacob Sullum pushes back on the argument that "America has gone too far in legalizing vice."