US national debt $59 trillion - over $500,000 per household

Carl Spitzer cwsiv_2nd at HOTPOP.COM
Mon Nov 12 11:10:32 MST 2007

Were screwed.  CWSIV

Taxpayers on the hook for $59 trillion
By Dennis Cauchon, USA TODAY

The federal government recorded a $1.3 trillion loss last year — far
more than the official $248 billion deficit — when corporate-style
accounting standards are used, a USA TODAY analysis shows.

The loss reflects a continued deterioration in the finances of Social
Security and government retirement programs for civil servants and
military personnel. The loss — equal to $11,434 per household — is more
than Americans paid in income taxes in 2006.

"We're on an unsustainable path and doing a great disservice to future
generations," says Chris Chocola, a former Republican member of Congress
from Indiana and corporate chief executive who is pushing for more
accurate federal accounting. 

Modern accounting requires that corporations, state governments and
local governments count expenses immediately when a transaction occurs,
even if the payment will be made later. 

The federal government does not follow the rule, so promises for Social
Security and Medicare don't show up when the government reports its
financial condition. 

Bottom line: Taxpayers are now on the hook for a record $59.1 trillion
in liabilities, a 2.3% increase from 2006. That amount is equal to
$516,348 for every U.S. household. By comparison, U.S. households owe an
average of $112,043 for mortgages, car loans, credit cards and all other
debt combined.

Unfunded promises made for Medicare, Social Security and federal
retirement programs account for 85% of taxpayer liabilities. State and
local government retirement plans account for much of the rest.

This hidden debt is the amount taxpayers would have to pay immediately
to cover government's financial obligations. Like a mortgage, it will
cost more to repay the debt over time. Every U.S. household would have
to pay about $31,000 a year to do so in 75 years. 

The Financial Accounting Standards Advisory Board, which sets federal
accounting standards, is considering requiring the government to adopt
accounting rules similar to those for corporations. The change would
move Social Security and Medicare onto the government's income statement
and balance sheet, instead of keeping them separate. 

The White House and the Congressional Budget Office oppose the change,
arguing that the programs are not true liabilities because government
can cancel or cut them. 

Chad Stone, chief economist at the liberal Center on Budget and Policy
Priorities, says it can be misleading to focus on the government's
unfunded liabilities because Medicare's financial problems overwhelm the

"There is a shortfall in Medicare and Medicaid that is potentially
explosive, but that is related to overall trends in health care
spending," he says. 

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