Our real national debt

This is a great article from Kevin Williamson over at NRO. It goes into detail on how our true national debt is 10 times the published figure of $13Trillion. (US Debt Clock) Adding to the national debt are these additional debt figures:

  • Beyond the official federal debt, there is another $2.5 trillion or so in state and local debt, according to Federal Reserve figures. Why so much? A lot of that debt comes from spending that is extraordinarily stupid and wasteful, even by government standards. Because state and local authorities can issue tax-free securities — municipal bonds — there’s a lot of appetite for their debt on the marketplace, and a whole platoon of local special-interest hustlers looking to get a piece.
  • One of the biggest is the pension payments owed to government workers. And here’s where the state-and-local story actually gets quite a bit worse than what’s happening in Washington — it’s the sort of thing that might make you rethink that whole federalism business. So how much would the states have to book to fully fund those liabilities? Drop in another $3 trillion. Properly accounting for these obligations, that takes us up to a total of $19.5 trillion in governmental liabilities.
  • The debt numbers start to get really hairy when you add in liabilities under Social Security and Medicare — in other words, when you account for the present value of those future payments in the same way that businesses have to account for the obligations they incur. Start with the entitlements and those numbers get run-for-the-hills ugly in a hurry: a combined $106 trillion in liabilities for Social Security and Medicare, or more than five times the total federal, state, and local debt we’ve totaled up so far.
  • Besides those monthly pension checks, the states are on the hook for retirees’ health care and other benefits, to the tune of another $1 trillion. And, depending on how you account for it, another half a trillion or so (conservatively estimated) in liabilities related to the government’s guarantee of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and securities supported under the bailouts.

And who’s on the hook for all this? Well that would be you, the US taxpayer of course. And just a reminder, Social Security is now paying out more in benefits than it takes in – eight years ahead of schedule. All of this didn’t happen over night and it can’t be fixed over night. Unfortunately with government spending breaking historical records, it doesn’t appear that anyone in Washington is terribly concerned.


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