Richest country in history?

Whether you’re an activist clamoring for change or a state legislator asking for matching federal funding, there is an often unspoken assumption that the U.S. has enough resources to solve the Problem, almost ANY problem.  My review of a few basics tells me the U.S. Government does NOT.  Who holds the wealth, and where it is (offshore? Swiss banks?) remains to be documented, but here are some basics on our current federal condition:

  1. U.S. GDP was $18.57 trillion in 2016.
  2. The national debt is $20.6 trillion, climbing over $1 Trillion annually with the recent tax bill.
  3. Unfunded pension liabilities are:
    • State & Local: $3.5 trillion
    • US Govt: 3.5 trillion
    • Social Security – estimates vary wildly, from 13.4 to 46.7 trillion
    • Medicare: 3.2 trillion

And those are just the basic obligations which should have already been funded. The retirement portion alone is over $20 trillion. We also have infrastructure issues, with an estimated 4.6 trillion required. And the failure to have decent infrastructure is going to cost trillions, if not tens of trillions to our economy. Adding up just the above tangible costs is a minimum of $49 trillion, with more than double that amount possible.

U.S. Financial Situation  – $ trillion
Minimum Moderate
Fed’l Debt 20.8 21.8
Underfunded Pensions:    
State & Local 3.5 6.0
Federal 3.5 4.5
Social Security 13.4 46.7
Medicare 3.2 4.2
Infrastructure 4.6 14.0
Climate Crisis Adaptation ? ?
Quality Basic Education ? ?
Health Care for All ? ?
Total Deficit (trillion) $49.0 $97.2
Annual U.S. GDP (trillion) $18.6 In 2016

Then there are a few other things which should be on our plate if we call ourselves a “first world nation”, let alone Wealthy:

A. Adaptation to the Climate Crisis. I can’t find a good estimate at present, but expect many trillions.

B. Quality Basic Education for all. Currently largely funded by property taxes, the U.S. education system was a notch above Slovenia last I looked. This will be the topic of another post.

C. Health Care for all. With the recent discontinuation of funding for Obamacare, and the longer term planned Medicare cutbacks in the tax bill, the 28 million uninsured population is going to climb. Surprisingly, the cost of fixing this may not be that high, and will be the subject of another post.

Bottom line: If we’re so rich, why is 15% of the country in poverty, 30% of the country at or near poverty, and are there over $50 trillion in unfunded needs – EXCLUDING the last 3 items? Looks to me as though we have to take this seriously…

From Bain Study on Labor 2030

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