Over the full decade, the coronavirus recession is projected to add nearly $8 trillion to the national debt, pushing the debt held by the public to $41 trillion within a decade, or 128% of the economy. This would exceed the national debt at the height of World War II. Although that war ended before the debt could rise further, the expanding Social Security and Medicare shortfalls will keep the current debt increasing.
The $8 trillion coronavirus tab represents as much new borrowing as Washington had been projected to cover in the next six years. That essentially moves up the previous projections of the federal debt by six years and gives lawmakers six years less to avert a potential debt crisis in which rising debt and interest costs would overwhelm Washington’s ability to tax or borrow. As soon as the economy recovers, lawmakers will face pressure to get America’s fiscal house in order.