Policy Documents

Bankrupt Entitlements and the Federal Budget

Michael Tanner –
March 28, 2011

Tanner contends in this Policy Analysis that if one includes the unfunded liabilities of programs such as Medicare and Social Security, the true national debt could run as high as $119.5 trillion.  Moreover, to focus solely on debt is to treat a symptom rather than the underlying disease. We face a debt crisis not because taxes are too low, but because government is too big. If there is no change to current policies, by 2050 federal government spending will exceed 42 percent of GDP.

Adding in state and local spending, government at all levels will consume nearly 60 percent of everything produced in this country. Whether financed through debt or taxes, government that large of government are so-called “entitlement programs,” in particular Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Indeed, by 2050, those three programs alone will consume 18.4 percent of GDP. If one assumes that revenues return to and stay at their traditional 18 percent of GDP, then those three programs alone will consume all federal revenues. Therefore any serious attempt to balance the federal budget and reduce our growing national debt must include a plan to reform entitlements.