NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

YOUR $455,000 LOAN TO UNCLE SAM

February 8, 2008

The unfunded liabilities Uncle Sam has incurred on our behalf through already promised entitlements in programs such as Social Security, Medicare and the veterans benefits now exceed by $53 trillion the tax revenues projected to be available to pay for them, says Comptroller General David Walker, who heads the Government Accountability Office.

"I know it is hard to make sense of what 'trillions' means," Walker said. "One way to think about it is this: Imagine we decided to put aside and invest today enough to cover these promises tomorrow.  It would take about $455,000 per American household -- or $175,000 for every man, woman and child in the United States."

  • Of course, every man, woman and child does not work for pay outside the home: some are too young, some take care of their own children, some are criminals who have actually been locked up in jail, some are ill or incapacitated and some are just lazy.
  • When you divide the unfunded costs of promised entitlement benefits by the number of Americans who work full time, says Walker, it equals $410,000 per worker.
  • A married couple making $80,000 per year would have to set aside all their income for more than five years to cover their share.

Of course, elected officials in Washington, D.C., have no intention of making Americans working today pay for the entitlement benefits these elected officials are promising to deliver, says Terence P. Jeffrey, editor in chief of CSNnews.com.  That would destroy one of the primary incentives politicians have for making these promises, which is to make the voters think that, on net, the politicians are giving them things rather than taking things away.

Some day, says Jeffrey, Americans will look back across the wreckage of our coming fiscal catastrophe and ask: Why didn't our leaders see it coming?  The answer will be: They did.

Source: Terence P. Jeffrey, "Your $455,000 loan to Uncle Sam," Washington Times, February 8, 2008.

 

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