Our true national debt

We all know that the federal government has “hit” the debt ceiling of $14.294 trillion that Congress has authorized.  So, Congress is now looking at “where we go” from here.  But, here is what you may not know.

The federal government doesn’t have to play by the same accounting rules as does any publicly traded company.  For a corporation, any future liabilities, such as future pension and health care costs promised to employees, must be listed on the company’s balance sheet.  Those items can be ignored by the federal government as, under their rules, nothing is recorded until the federal government writes a check.

According to a study done by USA Today, “what you don’t know” is far more troubling than “what you do know”.  We currently owe an additional $61.6 trillion to pay for future “promises” we have made, and have absolutely nothing “in the bank” to pay for that.

Our future unfunded obligations to Medicare…$24.8 trillion…to Social Security $21.4 trillion…to federal debt…$9.4 trillion…to retired military $3.6 trillion, and the list goes on.

Believe it or not,

The government has promised pension and health benefits worth more than $700,000 per retired civil servant. The pension fund’s key asset: federal IOUs. [emphasis supplied]

The total for all unfunded liabilities amounts to $534,000 per American household.

We have over promised, and over spent, adding an additional $1.5 trillion in new “recognized” debt last year alone.  Meanwhile, I for one, get the sense that our president is unconcerned about this.  Rather than taking the lead, as presidents usually do, he is, once again “leading from behind” and hoping Congress can figure something out.

That is the real tragedy.

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The Sound Off Sister was an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and special trial attorney for the Department of Justice, Criminal Division; a partner in the Florida law firm of Shutts & Bowen, and an adjunct professor at the University of Miami, School of Law. The Sound Off Sister offers frequent commentary concerning legislation making its way through Congress, including the health reform legislation passed in early 2010.


  1. Plainvillian on June 7, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    Government at all levels has been lying for so long that nothing emanating from any government agency is now believed.? Career politicians and their bureaucrats have squandered the treasure our founding fathers bequeathed to us in1787: belief in honest effective self government, freedom and opportunity.? Without? faith in a representative government, our society will change, and not I think for the better.

  2. jack 4 time on June 7, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    You’re way too conservative in running those (crooked) numbers. LOL.
    I tend to see it as well over a million $ for every household or taxpayer. I’ve seen Cato & heritage studies that put the number (of true debt) at 120 trillion… or at 140 trillion. But you’re right… it’s exponentially beyond the 12-14 trillion figure we hear all the time. The only question is…? it beyond the tipping point?
    Here’s one:? The Real National Debt: $130 Trillion, Give or Take
    Here’s another:? CHART SHOCK – The Real National Debt Is $202 Trillion

  3. Shared Sacrifice on June 7, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    50% of the voting population don’t pay taxes- instead, they receive an?Earned Income Tax Credit.(?) And we’ve got legions of other folks who’d vote for Satan if he promised something for free.?? I’m afraid America’s got to hit rock-bottom before any recovery. I think we’re headed for a tragedy that will make the great depression look like a bump in the road.?? And it will be said, never let a crisis go to waste!

  4. GdavidH on June 7, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    “50% of the voting population don?t pay taxes-”
    I thought all we had to do was tax the rich.? Problem solved, glad I could help.

  5. Eric on June 7, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    Yeah, I’ve heard that those no good rich people are way too selfish with their money too. ?Maybe we should just take their money away from them and throw them all in prison. Evil rich white people…

  6. johnboy111 on June 7, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    it might be time to stock up on extra food and a tent??OH WAIT DO I NEED A PERMIT FOR THAT????????

  7. TomL on June 8, 2011 at 7:14 am

    and Paul Ryan is?being villified?for wanting to get entitlements under control now, to save them for the generations that will have to pay for them.

  8. gillie28 on June 8, 2011 at 8:17 am

    It’s ok, SOS, Obama is going to help bail-out Greece, and I’m sure their repayment of that debt will go a long way to resolving the multi-squillions of dollars owed in deficit – hahahahahaha (or maybe we’ll each get a bottle of ouzo).

  9. sammy22 on June 8, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    What’s the difference? $14T or $140T of debt will never be paid off. When either WE or other countries? stop buying the bonds, THEN our elected officials of both parties may pay attention. This is another “tempest in-a-teapot”, good for blogs, but not much else.

  10. gillie28 on June 9, 2011 at 6:38 am

    There is an excellent article called “Austerity Works” by Niall Ferguson.? I read it in Newsweek, but there is a copy of it on the Daily Beast.? Really worthwhile reading:

  11. sammy22 on June 9, 2011 at 11:20 am

    Seems from the article that austerity has increased the unemployment rate and that growth has been sluggish. Is this what Repubs would advocate?


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