Michael Tanner: Medicare and Social Security Tabs Coming Due

Unless we want to drown future generations in a sea of red ink, we need to have a serious conversation about the future of entitlements.


Jason escapist / Foter

The national debt has dropped out of the headlines recently, but that doesn't mean that it has gone away.   In fact, just a few weeks ago, the debt officially topped $18 trillion. For those keeping score, that equals roughly 101 percent of GDP. In other words, we now owe more than the value of all goods and services produced in this country over a year. And, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the debt will climb to almost $27.3 trillion within the next 10 years.

As bad as these numbers sound, they actually understate the problem, writes Michael Tanner. That is because they don't include the unfunded liabilities of programs like Social Security and Medicare. While those liabilities don't show up on the country's official balance sheet, they nonetheless represent legal obligations of the US government.  Including the expected shortfall from those programs brings are true debt to an unfathomable $90.6 trillion. 

Yet, neither Democrats nor Republicans seem willing to face up to this problem, according to Tanner.