Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Entitlement Monster

An article in today's issue of USA Today tries to make real the looming problem of promised but unfunded retiree benefits. Here is how the story starts:

Retiree benefits grow into 'monster'

Taxpayers owe more than a half-million dollars per household for financial promises made by government, mostly to cover the cost of retirement benefits for baby boomers, a USA TODAY analysis shows.

Federal, state and local governments have added nearly $10 trillion to taxpayer liabilities in the past two years, bringing the total of government's unfunded obligations to an unprecedented $57.8 trillion. That is the equivalent of a $510,678 credit card debt for every American household. Payments on this delinquent tax bill must start soon if financial promises to the elderly are to be kept.

The cost of retirement programs will start to soar when baby boomers — 79 million born between 1946 and 1964 — begin collecting Social Security in 2008 and Medicare in 2011.

"This is a monster financial problem that both parties are going to have to solve," says Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., a member of the House Budget Committee. "Most Americans and Congress members don't realize the terrific burden we are putting on future generations."

I can't vouch for the accuracy of these numbers, but I am pleased to see the story. The more often the mainstream media remind voters of the upcoming budget crunch, the better.