WASHINGTON—Americas current national debt stands at roughly $23.3 trillion, according to the U.S. Treasury Departments “Debt to the Penny” website, which is so precise that visitors can pick a specific date in the recent past—say Jan. 1, 2000—and get the exact amount on that day: $5,776,091,314,225.33.
While based on those figures, the national debt has more than quadrupled in that time frame, its actually much worse than that, according to calculations by Bill Bergman.
“This calculation highlights some of the pitfalls and perils of false precision,” Bergman, the director of research for the Chicago-based nonprofit advocacy group Truth in Accounting (TIA), told The Epoch Times.
“The U.S. government does not include the unfunded obligations for Social Security and Medicare under current law. These massive negative positions are so high that Truth in Accounting believes the true national debt runs north of $100 trillion.”
$122,309,089,510,200, to be exact.
Because future obligations arent included in current-year accounting, a government budget can technically be “balanced” when, in truth, its anything but.
Thats because those unfunded obligations under Social Security and Medicare are benefits the government has promised to pay future beneficiaries, but for which there currently exists no dedicated funding.
The yawning gap between the Treasury Departments calculation of the national debt and TIAs reflects how the federal government keeps its books.
“How does the U.S. government justify not counting these obligations as debts? The reasoning has been that the government controls the law, and can change it at any time,” Bergman said.
“We at TIA dont believe sound accounting allows for this degree of discretion. As long as current law is current law, the government should record these debts, and behave accordingly.”
But thats not all.
Bergman said that “a true national debt running almost five times as high as the reported debt may suggest deception is at work,” but federal accounting “also calls Social Security and Medicare entitlement programs, and [for annual budgeting purposes] calls entitlement expenditures mandatory spending.”
In other words, officials can spend less now and save the difference, raise taxes now for future spending, or hope the economy keeps growing and generates added revenues and budget surpluses down the road.
Federal officials know these options well, and they even allude to them on the annual Social Security statement that future beneficiaries get in the mail: “Your estimated benefits are based on current law. Congress has made changes to the law in the past and can do so at any time.”
The annual trustees for Social Security and Medicare also issue annual reports that acknowledge the spiraling benefits and project the years when each system will be unable to pay promised benefits based on current assets if Congress continues to ignore the problem.
The problem of misleading accounting isnt unique to the federal government; its widespread at the state and local levels as well, according to TIA President Sheila Weinberg.
“While governments consolidated or government-wide statements are prepared on an accrual basis, the general and other budgeted funds statements are prepared using the modified accrual basis, which loosely resembles the cash basis. These two sets of books lead to misleading and contradictory financial information,” Weinberg reRead More – Source