Uncle Sam’s Unfunded Promises…”I have to warn you: You may be hopping mad when you finish reading this.”

Sunday, October 8, 2017
By Paul Martin

By John Mauldin
Sunday, 8 October 2017

Here’s a surprisingly profound question: What is a promise? Dictionaries offer various definitions. I like this one: “An express assurance on which expectation is to be based.”

That definition captures the two-sided nature of a promise. One party offers an assurance, which the other converts into an expectation. You deposit money in your checking account, and the bank assures you that you can have it back on demand. You expect that the bank will fulfill its promise when you visit an ATM.

Governments likewise make promises, but those are different. Government is the ultimate enforcer of promises, but we have no recourse if it chooses to break them – except at the ballot box. As we’ve seen in recent weeks regarding public pensions, that’s ineffective when the promises were made long ago by officials who are no longer in office.

The federal government’s keeping its promises is important for everyone in the US, because almost all of us are part of the largest public pension system: Social Security. We pay taxes our whole working lives and expect the government to give us retirement benefits. But what happens if it can’t?

Three weeks ago we visited the problems with local and state pensions. Last week we looked at European pensions. This week we are going to take a hard look at the unfunded liabilities and debt of the US government. And even though the federal unfunded pension liabilities dwarf those of state and local pensions, I want to make it clear that I believe the state and local problems will be far more intractable.

I have to warn you: You may be hopping mad when you finish reading this.

Doubled Debt

In the United States we have two national programs to care for the elderly. Social Security provides a small pension, and Medicare covers medical expenses. All workers pay taxes that supposedly fund the benefits we may someday receive. That’s actually not true, as we will see in a little bit.

Neither of these programs is comprehensive. Living on Social Security benefits alone is a pretty meager existence. Medicare has deductibles and copayments that can add up quickly. Both programs assume people have their own savings and other resources. Nevertheless, the programs are crucial to millions of retirees, many of whom work well past 65 just to keep up with their routine expenses. This chart from my friend John Burns shows the growing trend among generations to work past age 65. Having turned 68 a few days ago, I guess I’m contributing a bit to the trend:

The Rest…HERE

One Response to “Uncle Sam’s Unfunded Promises…”I have to warn you: You may be hopping mad when you finish reading this.””

  1. Caroline

    In 1963 after the assassination of JFK Lyndon (bastard) Johnson did an interesting thing for SS. the trust fund that held the money for retirement was transferred to the general fund. What happened next was of particular interest to those who would eventually retire and expect that money to be there. IT WAS GONE as the pigs in congress used the money for pet projects in their respective states to ensure they were reelected. Today, SS is referred to as an ‘entitlement’. If its a phucking entitlement, then why the hell does the government take money out of my paycheck every week???

    Please people, elect someone that will care for Americans the next time you vote for a congressman or senator!!!


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