American Samizdat

Sunday, December 24, 2006. *
The US is insolvent. There is simply no way for our national bills to be paid under current levels of taxation and promised benefits. Our combined federal deficits now total more than 400% of GDP. That is the conclusion of a recent Treasury/OMB report entitled Financial Report of the United States Government [PDF] that was quietly slipped out on a Friday (12/15/06), deep in the holiday season, with little fanfare. Sometimes I wonder why the Treasury Department doesn’t just pay somebody to come in at 4:30 am Christmas morning to release the report. Additionally, I’ve yet to read a single account of this report in any of the major news media outlets but that is another matter. But, hey, I understand. A report is this bad requires all the muffling it can get.

Despite improvement in both the fiscal year 2006 reported net operating cost and the cash-based budget deficit, the U.S. government’s total reported liabilities, net social insurance commitments, and other fiscal exposures continue to grow and now total approximately $50 trillion, representing approximately four times the Nation’s total output (GDP) in fiscal year 2006, up from about $20 trillion, or two times GDP in fiscal year 2000. As this long-term fiscal imbalance continues to grow, the retirement of the “baby boom” generation is closer to becoming a reality with the first wave of boomers eligible for early retirement under Social Security in 2008. Given these and other factors, it seems clear that the nation’s current fiscal path is unsustainable and that tough choices by the President and the Congress are necessary in order to address the nation’s large and growing long-term fiscal imbalance.

From $20 trillion in fiscal exposures in 2000 to over $50 trillion in only six years? What shall we do for an encore… shoot for $100 trillion? And how about the fact that boomers begin retiring in 2008… that always seemed to be waaaay out in the future. However, beginning January 1st we can start referring to 2008 as ‘next year’ instead of ‘some point in the future too distant to get concerned about now’. Our economic problems need to be classified as growing, imminent, and unsustainable. And let me clarify something. The $53 trillion shortfall is expressed as a ‘net present value’. That means that in order to make the shortfall disappear we’d have to have that amount of cash in the bank – today - earning interest (the GAO uses 5.7% & 5.8% as the assumed long-term rate of return). I’ll say it again - $53 trillion, in the bank, today.

[Article continues at link. See also this list of countries by current account balance. The CIA World Book states the USA is number one in debt to other countries to the tune of $8.837 trillion. When the world is ready to reign in a superpower gone wild, just present the bill.]
posted by Trevor Blake at 11:49 PM
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