Long-term budget projections do not have to be right to be useful. Even when they are wrong, forecasts give valuable information about the long-term direction of key sectors of the budget, economy, and population. A variety of models now shows important demographic shifts—such as the aging of the US population—that will weigh heavily on the nation’s workforce and social welfare programs. Policymakers would do well to consider these forecasts’ implications and, in the face of uncertainty, realize that unanticipated economic bad luck is perhaps as likely as good luck, and so plan conservatively.
This chapter appears in Fixing Fiscal Myopia: Why and How We Should Emphasize the Long Term in Federal Budgeting. The full volume is available from the Bipartisan Policy Center at http://bipartisanpolicy.org/library/fixing-fiscal-myopia/.