WASHINGTON - The Congressional Budget Office gave us a forecast preview Wednesday of the frightening fiscal catastrophe that threatens to engulf the government in a sea of debt.
The CBO report by Congress's nonpartisan budgeteers reads like one of those disaster movies in which America is under attack by an alien enemy that destroys everything in its path.
But this isn't science fiction. It's happening now and it is going to make Europe's financial crisis look like an empty piggy bank.
CBO said that under President Obama's out-of-control spending policies, we are running up another $1 trillion-plus budget deficit.
Our monster $15.2 trillion national debt will become a $21.6 trillion debt in 10 years. Medicare's hospital insurance trust fund will be virtually emptied by 2022, two years earlier than President Obama predicted last year.
Social Security's disability trust fund will run out of cash in five years, and the Medicaid health care program for the poor will explode under a crush of applicants as a result of a massive expansion under Obamacare.
Medcaid enrollment is now expected to skyrocket from 67 million people in 2011 to about 95 million in 2022.
CBOs economic forecasts, which to a large degree will determine whether Obama is re-elected to a second term, are even gloomier.
December's ballyhooed 8.5 percent unemployment rate -- which some of Obama's liberal supporters dismissed as "a statistical fluke" -- will climb to nearly 9 percent in the last three months of this year and rise to 9.2 percent in the first three months of next year.
Forget all the sugarcoating the nightly news shows are giving Obama's dismal economic score card. CBO director Douglas W. Elmendorf doesn't mince words about the looming disaster that awaits us.
"We have not had a period of such persistently high unemployment since the [Great] Depression," he said.
CBO threw cold water on those rosy growth scenarios that the Commerce Department joyously crowed last week when it reported the economy grew at a 2.8 percent rate in last year's fourth quarter.
Instead, CBO said that if there is no change in current law, economic growth, i.e. the gross domestic product, would slow down to an even weaker 2 percent rate this year and then to a feebler 1.1 percent next year.
Any GDP rate at around 1 percent or lower would mean that the economy has virtually stopped growing and would be teetering on the edge of another recession.