As if the state of our economy was not depressing enough, maverick economist Bruce Bartlett really laid it on thick in a recent Forbes column. The unfunded liabilities of Medicare and Social Security, he claims, add up to $106.4 trillion. But the nation’s total private net worth is only $51.5 trillion. “In effect,” he notes, “we have promised the elderly benefits equal to more than twice the nation’s total wealth on top of the payroll tax.”
In order to fully pay for this liability, he reckons, federal income taxes for every taxpayer would have to rise by roughly 81%. To figure out what that means for you personally, just look up the total amount you paid in taxes on April 15 and multiply that by 1.8. The number you come up with is what you should be paying right now to fully finance Social Security and Medicare.
But if this is not causing you to run to your therapist for a double-prescription of Zoloft, consider this: Bartlett’s numbers don’t include the mountains of unfunded pension and other liabilities that state and local governments have assumed over the years. Nor does it include the googles of debt that Uncle Obama is assuming to stimulate the economy and bailout failing companies — not to mention the costs of universal health care, a carbon tax to stop global warming and yada, yada, yada.
Factor all that in and your choice becomes clear: Become a Hindu and pray to return another lifetime to pay off your karmic debt. Or say the heck with it and stay in bed tomorrow. Life is pointless anyway.