Please Send In $143,000. Per Family Member.

By John Lumbard.

  A recent cover of Bloomberg BusinessWeek asked;  “Would you invest in a company that lost $2 trillion last year and has a net worth of negative $44 trillion?”  There were lots of online responses from bloggers and rebutters, some of whom pointed out that we will eventually walk away from the big future liabilities that push our net worth so far into the red;  but isn’t that a good enough reason to sound the alarm today?

The big bucks in that $44 trillion ($143,000 for you, and another $143,000 for each member of your family) are the government’s massive health care obligations.  Social Security can be fixed (if we start right now) by rolling back the retirement age and passing up a few cost-of-living increases.  But—even before the big health care bill was signed last year—government at all levels has been paying for 56% of all the nation’s health care bills, and those costs are rising like a rocket.  Our work force is shifting from one with lots of workers and few retirees to one with few workers and lots of retirees.  If you click on the link you’ll find that the numbers come from the Dept of Health and Human Services, but hardly anybody seems to be aware of these figures . . . . .

Yes, it’s true that we can just sit back and let these changes wash over us, but history is full of suggestions that this might not be such a good idea.  The lack of urgency in Washington is breathtaking, in the way that oxygen is slowly sucked out of a room.

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