Over the course of attacking Rep. Paul Ryan's vision for America's future on Tuesday, President Obama argued that Republican spending cuts represented "pulling up ... ladders for the next generation" after previous generations had benefited from government investments. But in reality, reckless and overly generous spending by older generations has placed a massive debt burden on America's youth. Far from pulling up the ladders, putting our nation on a sustainable fiscal course would be taking a massive weight off of the shoulders of younger Americans, enabling them to climb much more easily.
Here's a graph I put together based on Congressional Budget Office spending projections as a percentage of GDP through 2085 if Congress continues to behave in the future the way it has in the past. The space in between the lines represents the growing burden placed on younger generations by government spending. Without cutting spending, younger Americans will have to make up the difference with drastically higher taxes that would cripple the nation's economy.
If nothing is done to get our debt problem under control, then a baby girl born during Obama's speech today would see debt as a percentage of GDP rise to 179 percent by the time she graduates college (2034), which would require tax revenues to more than double from where they are this year. By way of comparison, Greece, which recently defaulted on its debt, had a debt to GDP ratio of 165 percent in 2011.
It's one thing if Obama wants to argue to Americans that they should accept massive, across the board, tax increases to preserve his vision for government. But instead, he'd prefer not to offer solutions so he can have a free hand to attack Republicans in an election year. As Obama's Treasury Secretary told Ryan in February: “We’re not coming before you to say we have a definitive solution to that long-term problem. What we do know is we don’t like yours.”
NOTE: An earlier version of this post had a different graph that was erroneous. It has been replaced.