U.S. on a course to spend more on debt than on defense

Interest rates are rising as inflation normalizes around the Federal Reserve’s 2% target. That and the sheer scale of debt being accumulated by the federal government has put the U.S. on a path of rising interest costs that in the years to come could crowd out other government spending priorities and rattle markets.

In 2017, interest costs on federal debt of $263 billion accounted for 6.6% of all government spending and 1.4% of gross domestic product, well below averages of the previous 50 years. The Congressional Budget Office estimates interest spending will rise to $915 billion by 2028, or 13% of all outlays and 3.1% of gross domestic product.

Along that path, the government is expected to pass the following milestones: It will spend more on interest than it spends on Medicaid in 2020; more in 2023 than it spends on national defense; and more in 2025 than it spends on all nondefense discretionary programs combined, from funding for national parks to scientific research, to health care and education, to the court system and infrastructure, according to the CBO.