As the politicos in Washington continue to move the deck chairs around on the Titanic, ignoring the monster iceberg in plain sight, I’m keeping my eyes wide open. Here are a few tidbits from a recently published Social Security Administration factsheet:
- An estimated 161 million workers—94% of all workers—are covered under Social Security.
- In 1940, the life expectancy of a 65-year-old was almost 14 years; today it is more than 20 years.
- By 2033, the number of older Americans will increase from 45.1 million today to 77.4 million.
- There are currently 2.8 workers for each Social Security beneficiary. By 2033, there will be 2.1 workers for each beneficiary.
We can forget about the trust fund when the cupboard is bare. Right now, today, the government collects Social Security taxes from the work force. From those receipts, it pays out Social Security benefits. In 2010 the Congressional Budget Office announced, “[T]he system will pay out more in benefits than it receives in payroll taxes, an important threshold it was not expected to cross until at least 2016.” Baby boomers will retire at a rate of 10,000 per day for the next 19 years, and the gap between Social Security tax revenue and expenditures will grow with each passing day.
Social Security is just the tip of the iceberg. In 2011 USA Today pegged the US government’s unfunded liabilities at $61.6 trillion. That’s $528,000 per household. I doubt most Americans, regardless of their age, have a spare half million to bail out the government. All the wealth of the Warren Buffetts and Oprah Winfreys of our country wouldn’t even make a dent.
The rest of the world knows what’s going on. Historically, other countries have lent us the money to help pay our bills. Keeping our economy in spending mode helped them sell exports to the US and create jobs. That lending is slowing down radically as the world grows concerned about the US government’s ability to pay its bills.
In January, CNS news gave us a pretty shabby report card:
“[T]he Federal Reserve revealed that its holdings of U.S. government debt had increased to an all-time record of $1,696,691,000,000 as of the close of business on Wednesday. The Fed’s holdings of U.S. government debt have increased by 257 percent since … Jan. 20, 2009, and the Fed is currently the single largest holder of U.S. government debt.”
If other countries won’t lend us money and our tax revenue is not enough to cover expenses, the Federal Reserve will just keep creating money without much more than a simple accounting entry.