Now those are scary numbers!

Writing in National Review, Jonathan Strong points out that the entitlement spending deficit is far, far larger than has previously been acknowledged.

… the true size of the problem is staggering, and surprised even many of the seasoned budget negotiators involved.

Try $106 trillion, the medium estimate. That’s $106,954,000,000,000. Even the lowest, extremely conservative estimate comes in at $72 trillion; the highest is over $120 trillion.

The amounts are so large that some controversial reforms appear inconsequential in comparison. Take Obama’s “chained CPI” proposal: it would save an estimated $89 billion over ten years, or 1.3 percent of the total deficit over those same ten years.

Part of the difference is time. The Congressional Budget Office pegs its cost estimates of bills to ten years. Not only has that led to a sort of CBO-score arms race on Capitol Hill, where legislation — Obamacare being the best example — is designed to exploit the ten-year window to produce a lower cost estimate. It also obscures the scope of the long-term entitlement crisis and the savings of reforms that would compound in the second and third decade.

The Senate GOP projection is for 30 years, which encompasses the retirement of the baby boomers — a far more significant problem than the deficits of the past few years.

“In all of these budget negotiations, we’re really trapped by this ten-year budget window, which, truthfully, minimizes the problem,” Johnson observes.

Another difference is the assumptions behind the projection. CBO’s long-term budget outlook, for example, offers two estimates: the “baseline” scenario and “alternative fiscal scenario.”

Baseline is according to current law, including all of the gimmicks Congress has put in current law to game their CBO scores. According to that, we’re totally fine — the debt will slowly go down without Congress’s having to do anything. It’s also fantasy.

The other scenario is more realistic. In it, debt begins to really ramp up around 2025, and quickly becomes unwieldy — even insurmountable — by 2040, when the graph ends.

There’s more at the link.  Bold underlined text is my emphasis.

Those are absolutely staggering numbers.  Even if the true figure is only half of the minimum estimate above, that’s still $36 trillion – a sum so vast as to be incomprehensible.  Forget partisan politics.  Ignore the fact that different parties produce different figures.  The reality is equally bad, no matter what the source of the bad news.

There’s an old saying that tells us “What can’t be done, won’t be done”.  We cannot – I repeat, cannot – afford to pay such sums.  The money simply isn’t there.  The only way in which it will ever be there is if our currency is deliberately and cynically inflated to such an extent that we pay those promised benefits with dollars worth a tenth, or less than a tenth, of what they were when the promises were made.  If you’re trusting the promises of politicians about your future Medicare and Social Security benefits, I have news for you.  You’ve been had.  They saw you coming, and played you for a sucker.

At this rate, I don’t see myself retiring at all!  Better get back to writing more books . . .


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