News reports regularly inform us of the growing federal deficit, projected at a stunning $1.75 trillion for fiscal 2009 and $1.17 trillion for 2010. But regularly reported, less visible government obligations have been growing much faster.
In the nearly five years from January 2003 to December 2007, the Medicare trustees reported that the unfunded liabilities of Social Security and Medicare grew by a stunning $10.4 trillion. The average annual growth topped $2 trillion.
These numbers seem to support the ones in "IOUSA" so I don't doubt them.
Question is, what do we do about it?
Here's what happens if we do nothing.
According to the Federal Reserve flow-of-funds figures for year-end 2007, our collective net worth as consumers was $62.7 trillion. By the end of 2008, the same figure had fallen to $51.5 trillion. Another year of growth for Social Security and Medicare liabilities would bring total unfunded government promises to about $46 trillion. That's nearly 90% of our net worth.
If consumer net worth fell an additional $5 trillion -- the same amount it fell in the last three months of 2008 -- we'd be broke.