Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Real National Debt

Congress is going through its near annual ritual of increasing the official debt ceiling on our national debt, which consists of treasury bonds and bills. The current ceiling is $14.3 trillion, far from trivial at roughly equal to our GDP, but well below the unfunded liabilties of social security and medicare. To be specific the trustees of both programs reported yesterday that social security has an unfunded liability of $17.9 trillion and medicare's unfunded liability is a frightening $38.3 trillion. Thus the two retirement programs have roughly 4X the liability of the official debt.

Thus any real budget solution has to involve radical changes in these two popular programs.(Note: I am a beneficiary of both programs.) Simply put benefits will have to be radically reduced over time and taxes to support both programs will have to be raised. I know that doing both is anathema to both political parties, but sooner or later we will need to have some real adults in the room. Too bad they can't be found.