America's Checkbook

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So, April 15th or 16th this year is behind us, the taxes are paid, and the pain of writing that check is starting to recede. And boom, here comes a new warning that we haven't seen anything yet.

New estimates of the ocean of red ink facing the federal government in the coming years put it much, much higher than politicians will admit. One estimate says we could sell everything we own — the country and every building on it — and still be $20 trillion dollars short.

Ouch! So, what will it be? Higher taxes? Less government? A third way?

This hour On Point: the great debate over the red tide before us.

Quotes from the Show:

"The government holds two sets of books. In fact, the accounting done by the federal government would make Enron accounting look rather pristine in the sense that the federal government has its official budget that focuses on annual cash flows but doesn't take into account the future obligations and how those future obligations are growing over time. That's very inconsistent relative to the private sector." Kent Smetters

"It's the most important domestic policy issue we face because the average American today listening to this broadcast - her share of the national debt is roughly 29 thousand dollars if you believe simplistic government bookkeeping which can be described as completely illegal in the private sector. If you use real numbers, your individual share isn't 20 thousand dollars, it's more like a 170 thousand dollars and growing fast." Congressman Jim Cooper

"We could pay for the shortfall in the Social Security trust fund by allowing the Bush tax cuts for the top 1 percent to sunset." Jared Bernstein

"Stopping the war [in Iraq] will absolutely help but we still need health care reform [to resolve the deficit crisis]." Jared Bernstein


Kent Smetters, professor of insurance and risk management at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.;
Congressman Jim Cooper (D-TN), member of the House Budget Committee;
Jared Bernstein, senior economist, Economic Policy Institute, former deputy chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor

This program aired on April 26, 2007.


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