Listen. Can you hear it?
It’s a steady, rumbling sound and it is gradually rising in intensity.
That is the sound of an approaching economic tsunami, one which will consume America and destroy her future.
It is faint now, but not too faint. It is distant – but not too distant.
It will be here before you know it. And when it arrives, it will ravage everything in its path.
Surely our elected leaders hear the rumbling too. How could they miss it?
And surely they are taking the matter seriously, because they aren’t really all-consumed with just the next election cycle. No, they truly do want what is best for the country, partisan politics aside, right? After all, they are Americans too, and they – like all of us – are in the path of this growing economic tsunami?
More money than the world has
The good news is at least some lawmakers are concerned about the enormous amount of money in benefits – $106 trillion within the next three decades – that past generations of congresses have promised Americans, in order to secure their votes and remain in power.
At least some lawmakers are aware that there simply isn’t enough money on the planet to pay those benefits, and are trying – though largely in vain, at the moment – to head off the approaching economic tsunami. But will it be too few – and too late? Is Washington’s culture of buying votes with the federal treasury too ingrained to alter course?
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., is one of the few. He and a group of Senate Republicans recently bypassed the Congressional Budget Office, which traditionally only projects budgets and spending out for a decade, and did their own 30-year project. What they came up with was economic Armageddon: $106,954,000,000,000 in the red, and that was the medium estimate (the range was a low of $72 trillion and a high of $120 trillion, as reported by National Review magazine).
“In all of these budget negotiations, we’re really trapped by this ten-year budget window, which, truthfully, minimizes the problem,” Johnson says.
Indeed. By limiting its scope to a single decade, the CBO creates an environment where budget policy is gamed by both the White House and Congress; “projected savings” and other accounting tricks allow them to mask problems and hide the real danger. The Senate GOP’s 30-budget projection was designed to lay bare the problem – and its scope – so that Americans have a very clear idea of just what is coming (it will be Greece but on a dramatically higher order of magnitude).
“I used to joke that the estimate was based on whatever my mood was in the shower that morning,” former CBO director Douglas Holtz-Eakin told the magazine. In other words, by fudging assumptions, he could basically come up with whatever figures he wanted.
Per National Review:
While that’s true, it doesn’t really matter if Republicans and Obama were to agree on a figure. The Senate GOP’s projections are based on CBO’s cost projections and generally conservative. The range is well within where experts would peg the problem. It would just be a useful vehicle to help Americans understand the scope of the problem and a measuring stick for the savings of reform proposals.
‘We haven’t come far in three years’
But is this all just an exercise in futility? Is President Obama and the remainder of the power elite in Congress serious about tackling the approaching fiscal Goliath?
“The one thing that has to be established is an agreement on where we are, number wise, before you can ever have an agreement on how you’re going to solve the problem,” Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., told NR, adding that he’s been working for three years on bipartisan debt negotiations with Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.
“We haven’t come very far in that three years. Just getting an agreement on the numbers is a major step that moves us forward,” said Chambliss.
As of this writing, per the US National Debt Clock, the U.S. government owes more than $124 trillion in unfunded liabilities. That kind of money cannot be raised or made, let alone paid, meaning the laws regarding benefits and the funding mechanisms for them are simply going to have to change, period.