What’s the Real Federal Debt?

$222 trillion?

That’s the “fiscal gap” as recently published by the Congressional Budget Office. The fiscal gap is the most realistic long-term budget forecast that the CBO can make (and it’s known for using rosy assumptions about U.S. economic health). It measures the gap between anticipated spending and anticipated revenue, taking all official and unofficial commitments into account.

As this article states, unofficial commitments of the government need to be included in budget forecasts because many of them (such as food stamps) are politically more untouchable than official commitments (such as interest payments to Chinese bondholders).

The really crazy thing is that the fiscal gap has grown by $11 trillion in the last year, in a political environment where Congress and the president cannot agree on cuts averaging $200 billion annually over a decade.

Gary North writes,

Understand, this is the present value of the gap. It’s not that, over the next 75 years, there will be $11 trillion more debt. It is that the present value of the entire gap is $11 trillion. We need $11 trillion today, invested in high-return capital in the private sector, to meet future obligations.

These numbers make investing in foreign real estate seem pretty attractive . . .

For a crash course on what is needed to right this ship, see Tom Woods’s Rollback.

About Dr. J

I am Professor of Humanities at Faulkner University, where I chair the Department of Humanities and direct online M.A. and Ph.D. programs based on the Great Books of Western Civilization. I am also Associate Editor of the Journal of Faith and the Academy and a member of the faculty at Liberty Classroom.
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6 Responses to What’s the Real Federal Debt?

  1. Alice Jewell says:

    Foreign real estate sometimes becomes no real estate when governments change.

  2. Tom Wright says:

    Kindle version of this is only 2 bucks. Planning to read it tonight, even though it looks pretty light on Kissinger-related content.

  3. John Ward says:

    Dr. J:

    Thank you for highlighting what I think is beyond an enormous problem. I hope that most of the readers here understand that this can never be paid back in today’s dollar value. Only two options are available, decrease the value of the dollar (i.e. inflation), or repudiate the debt. History shows that virtually no governments repudiate debt (though a few have). It is much easier to inflate it away. Since the founding of the Federeal Reserve in 1913 the value of the dollar has decreased by 97%. That however is nothing compared to the inflation in Germany after WWI. I urge everyone to study the hyper inflation of Germany, Rome and other countries. It is not a pretty picture and the decay it leads to in society is frightening. Some voices say we will grow our way out of it. Run the numbers. Now way.

    Here is a debt clock that may be of interest to a few people. http://www.usdebtclock.org/

  4. John Ward says:

    Dr J:

    This is perhaps the best synopsis of the debt issue that I have seen, http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com/.

    Reader Question: Could Obama Balance the Budget by Getting the Wealthy to Pay Their “Fair Share”? Mish answers this question.

    This was published on the blog on Saturday. Mish updates every day so you may have to look at a previous day if you can’t see it today.

    One of the most tangible things Mish said was an attempt to put millions, billions, and trillions into context.

    •1 Million seconds is 12 days.
    •1 Billion seconds is nearly 32 years.
    •1 Trillion seconds 31,688 years.

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