It’s Not $16 Trillion — It’s $222 Trillion
No matter who becomes president in November, he’s going to be confronted with a huge fiscal storm that no levee or dam will be able to hold back the flood waters of an insurmountable and unfathomable debt.
In his review of Dinesh D’Souza’s film 2016: Obama’s America, Dr. Gary Northnotes that there are at least three important topics that the film does not address. One of them is the real deficit that no one wants to talk about.
First, the deficit is vastly worse than the movie portrays. The movie sticks with the non-issue: the on-budget debt of $15 trillion [now $16 trillion], which is chump change, while never mentioning the central problem: the $222 trillion present value of the unfunded liabilities of the off-budget deficit, meaning the deficits of politically sacrosanct Social Security and Medicare. This is the heart of the federal government’s highly entertaining Punch and Judy show over the deficit, with Paul Ryan as Punch and Obama cross-dressing as Judy.
The off-budget deficit problem is not new. Every four years, the newly elected president and Congress kick the fiscal can down the road. They don’t want to be stuck with the can. In the not too distant future, the road’s going to end with a brick wall.
While presidents bear some responsibility for the deficit crisis, spending bills originate in Congress. The President proposes, but the Congress disposes. Congress could say no to every spending bill proposed by the President, but it (mostly) chooses not to. Every congressman knows that spending bills buy votes. Bought votes keep them in office.
Some future generation will get the bill. Congress hopes that they can stay in office just long enough so they won’t get blamed for the fiscal crisis that is inevitable.