A National Debt Of $14 Trillion? Try $211 Trillion
by NPR Staff
August 6, 2011
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When Standard & Poor’s reduced the nation’s credit rating from AAA to AA-plus, the United States suffered the first downgrade to its credit rating ever. S&P took this action despite the plan Congress passed this past week to raise the debt limit.
The downgrade, S&P said, “reflects our opinion that the fiscal consolidation plan that Congress and the administration recently agreed to falls short of what, in our view, would be necessary to stabilize the government’s medium-term debt dynamics.”
It’s those medium- and long-term debt problems that also worry economics professor Laurence J. Kotlikoff, who served as a senior economist on President Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers. He says the national debt, which the U.S. Treasury has accounted at about $14 trillion, is just the tip of the iceberg.
“We have all these unofficial debts that are massive compared to the official debt,” Kotlikoff tells David Greene, guest host of weekends on All Things Considered. “We’re focused just on the official debt, so we’re trying to balance the wrong books.”
Kotlikoff explains that America’s “unofficial” payment obligations — like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits — jack up the debt figure substantially. Laurence J. Kotlikoff served as a senior economist on President Ronald Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers and is a professor of economics at Boston University.
“If you add up all the promises that have been made for spending obligations, including defense expenditures, and you subtract all the taxes that we expect to collect, the difference is $211 trillion. That’s the fiscal gap,” he says. “That’s our true indebtedness.”
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It’s simple. The “game” is rigged against the little guy. So why do us “little guys” still allow ourselves to be fooled?
It’s like the old joke about the accountant keeping two sets of books!
“Plus shipping and handling”. Like the TV offers that are bait ‘n’ switch. The politicians and bureaucrats throw around deficit, debt, and “cuts” that cut nothing.
Time is running short.
What happens when the Chinese and the rest of the world cut us off. Credit card declined!
I didn’t realize what some unknown executives at AT&T and CSFB by making the defined pension plans fully funded separate legal entities. There was no funny business. Pensions were a sacred trust. The money was taken and invested prudently so that now I’ll get my benefit for the rest of my life.
We’ve “cheated” Social Security recipients, and various Federal and State workers. They are going to get <synonym for the past tense of the procreation act> because the contributions have been stolen by past politicians and bureaucrats to buy votes.
We need an honest accounting. Just how bad is it? I know in the Pepuls Republik of Nu Jerzee, guvs of both parties have not funded the pensions. That’s just wrong. If a private company did that, the execs would be in jail. Why are the guvs and bureaucrats exempt?
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