Monday, October 18, 2004

Fiscal gap estimated as high as $72 Trillion

But don't worry - you won't have to pay for at least four more years.

"The first of the 77 million-strong Baby Boom generation will begin to retire in just four years. The economic consequences of this fact -- as scary as they are foreseeable -- are all but ignored by President Bush and Democratic challenger John Kerry, who discuss just about everything but the biggest fiscal challenge of modern times. "

What a predicament we find ourselves in. The question in my mind is how long can we choose to ignore this? Do you have kids? If so, are you worried?

Look at these quotes from the article:
"Chilling" is the word U.S. Comptroller General David Walker uses to describe the budget outlook.

"The long-term budget projections are just horrifying," added Leonard Burman, co-director of tax policy for the Urban Institute. "I've got four children and it really disturbs me. I just think it's irresponsible what we're doing to them."

An array of government and private analysts put the actual U.S. "fiscal gap," which means all future receipts minus all future obligations, at $40 trillion (Government Accountability Office) to $72 trillion (Social Security Board of Trustees).

These are not sums, but present-value figures, heavily discounted to show in today's dollars what it would cost to pay off the debt immediately. The International Monetary Fund estimates the gap at $47 trillion, the Brookings Institution at $60 trillion.

A former Bush appointee commission of a study by the federal reserve bank (chaired by a Bush appointee) came up with the following immediate options to meet the liabilities:
-- More than double the payroll tax, immediately and forever, from 15.3 percent of wages to nearly 32 percent;

-- Raise income taxes by two-thirds, immediately and forever;

-- Cut Social Security and Medicare benefits by 45 percent, immediately and forever;

-- Or eliminate forever all discretionary spending, which includes the military, homeland security, highways, courts, national parks and most of what the federal government does outside of the transfer of payments to the elderly.

Whoa. And yet no one talks about this. Why? Kerry says he'll roll back the tax breaks for the rich - but will add tax breaks for the middle class and small businesses. Bush says he'll cut taxes again and keep the medicare drug bill which subsidizes giant pharmacudical corporations. They both want to spend, spend, spend - and neither wants to seriously address tax revenues which are shrinking (although Kerry would roll back the mega-rich tax breaks). This is unbelievable - and the public eats it up.

No one talks about the fact that our children are going to have to pay bills that we were to short sided to acknowledge. --As long as my wallet is more full today, I don't care about tomorrow.-- That seems to be the American Way these days.

These are long term problems - this article actually addresses the potential of an Argentina/Russia type financial collapse at some point in the future. There is little question that if the Chinese or Saudi's ever decide to take there money out of US bonds - it would spell immediate recession/depression.

Is it time something was done - or do you think we can afford to put it off to future generations?

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