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Is America About To Go Broke?

May 12, 2009

Scott Burns
NSN Money
May 11, 2009

Government obligations for Social Security and Medicare may soon exceed the combined net worth of every household and nonprofit organization in the country.

Prices dropped last year. But we still need to invest to protect ourselves from inflation. That’s why our retirement-plan investing needs an inflation “tilt.” You’ll understand why in a few paragraphs.

How bad will future inflation be? I don’t know. Neither does anyone else. It could be a normal inflation of 3% to 4% a year. It could also be a banana-republic 10% a month.

What we know is that all governments make promises they can’t fulfill. Our government certainly has. Under both political parties, it has taken promise making to a high art. This is not hyperbole. The figures can be found in regularly published government reports.

Much worse than you probably think

The figures exist, but they are ignored. News reports regularly inform us of the growing federal deficit, projected at a stunning $1.75 trillion for fiscal 2009 and $1.17 trillion for 2010. But regularly reported, less visible government obligations have been growing much faster.

In the nearly five years from January 2003 to December 2007, the Medicare trustees reported that the unfunded liabilities of Social Security and Medicare grew by a stunning $10.4 trillion. The average annual growth topped $2 trillion.

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