I've been talking about our economic woes for a long time now (as have many commentators). One of the most frustrating things about it has been the wilful blindness of the mainstream media, who've parroted the 'official line' that things really aren't all that bad, and will get better, and so on, and so on ad nauseam. They've been, at the very least, willing accomplices in the lies of those who should have known better.
It begins to look as if even the mainstream media can't hide their heads in the sand any longer. Two reports in recent days make me hopeful that at last they'll face the facts and begin to tell their viewers and/or readers the truth.
The New York Post consulted experts who stated baldly that the US Government has been hiding the true amount of the national debt. I haven't been able to find the original report from that newspaper, but it's been widely quoted in other sources, such as News Corp. in Australia:
THE actual figure of the US' national debt is much higher than the official sum of $US13.4 trillion ($14.3 trillion) given by the Congressional Budget Office, according to analysts cited on Sunday by the New York Post.
. . .
The CBO estimates the debt will be at $US16.5 trillion in two years, or 100.6 per cent of GDP.
But these numbers are incomplete.
They do not count off-budget obligations such as required spending for Social Security and Medicare, whose programs represent a balloon payment for the Government as more Americans retire and collect benefits.
In the case of Social Security, beginning in 2016, the US Government will be paying out more than it is collecting in taxes.
Without basic measures - such as payment cuts or higher payroll taxes - the system could be on the road to bankruptcy, according to officials.
"Without changes," wrote Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue, "by 2037 the Social Security Trust Fund will be exhausted. There will be enough money only to pay about $US0.76 for each dollar of benefits."
Mr Kotlikoff and Mr Moylan agree US national debt is much more than the official $US13.4 trillion number, but they disagree over how to add up the exact number.
Mr Kotlikoff says the debt is actually $US200 trillion.
Mr Moylan says the number is likely about $US60 trillion.
That is close to the figure quoted by David Walker, the US Comptroller General from 1998 to 2008.
He launched a campaign to convince Americans that the federal spending and debt is a greater threat than terrorism.
But whichever figure is accurate, all three agree that the problem has worsened in the last few years.
They say it is because Congress and the Administration, whether Republican or Democrat, consistently overspend.
There's more at the link.
The second article to catch my eye was an editorial in the Indianapolis Star. It's headlined bleakly, "Nation On The Brink Of Financial Disaster".
In the next 30 seconds, this nation will add more than $1 million to our debt. By day's end, the United States will owe another $2.88 billion.
And the mountain continues to rise, minute by minute, day by day, year after year -- to the point where the nation now is in the red by more than $13 trillion (and that's not counting Social Security or Medicare liabilities).
The key issue driving this year's elections is the still-weak economy, but concerns about the surging national debt also weigh on Americans' minds, from Washington, D.C., to Washington, Ind.
A bipartisan consensus is growing that the federal government must confront its addiction to debt as soon as possible or risk an economic meltdown that would severely punish the vast majority of Americans.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently suggested that the debt has become a national security issue, threatening to constrain the United States' ability to respond to international threats. Indiana's Sen. Richard Lugar, ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, agreed with that assessment in a meeting with The Star's Editorial Board on Friday. He noted that it's particularly difficult to confront China on trade and human rights abuses because that nation holds so much of the U.S. debt.
Political candidates from both parties have vowed to finally take on the problem if elected this fall. But it will be a daunting task no matter who is victorious in November.
. . .
The looming debt crisis that faces this nation if it doesn't alter course has risen because both major political parties have failed to be honest with Americans about reality. Part of that reality is that the nation can't continue to spend well beyond its income year after year without serious consequence. But another part, one that will be hard for many to accept, is that services will have to be slashed even as taxes may have to rise to pull this nation back from the brink of a fiscal disaster.
Again, there's more at the link.
At last they're beginning to get it. Is it too late - is it too much to expect - for our politicians to do the same?