November 29, 2018

Programs that millions of Americans depend on and care about may be feeling a squeeze from interest costs on our high and rising national debt.

In fiscal year 2018, the federal government already spent more on interest than it did on budget areas such as veterans’ benefits, transportation, and administration of justice.

But over the next few years, spending on interest will exceed spending on a number of additional major categories:

  • In fiscal year 2019, interest will be greater than the amount spent on income security — a category that includes programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Supplemental Security Income, and unemployment compensation.
  • In fiscal year 2020, interest payments will exceed the amount that the federal government spends on children, according to projections from the Urban Institute.
  • In fiscal year 2021, interest will surpass the combined amount spent on Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and subsidies for the purchase of health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
  • In fiscal year 2022, interest spending will exceed all mandatory spending other than that for Social Security and the major health care programs. That budget category, known as “other mandatory” spending, includes programs for income security, military retirement, and agriculture.
  • In fiscal year 2023, the federal government will spend more on interest than defense.

Federal spending on interest will soon exceed spending on other major budget categories

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The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that interest payments will continue to grow rapidly, rising from $389 billion in fiscal year 2019 (the current fiscal year) to $914 billion in 2028. Overall, net interest costs will total nearly $7 trillion over the next decade.

Net interest costs are projected to rise sharply

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Looking ahead, lawmakers should chart a more stable, sustainable path for the federal budget that would alleviate the growing interest burden and help ensure that there is room in the budget for national priorities.


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