23 Jun 2010

You Can Use the Government’s Own Figures

Financial Economics 10 Comments

People often wonder why I use the government’s official numbers (on CPI, the costs and benefits of cap-and-trade legislation, the size of the Fed’s balance sheet, etc.) to make my arguments. The answer is twofold:

(A) They are the “official” numbers and so cynics can’t say that I’m making stuff up (if my punchline is that the government is ripping us off).

(B) I generally can make my point using the government’s own numbers, so I can stipulate them for the sake of argument.

To that end, just look at the Treasury’s own statement about the current (in)solvency of all social insurance funds, which includes Social Security, Medicare, etc. I don’t want to spoil it. Open this (small) pdf (HT2 WND), and go to the last page. You can see in the first column, bottom row, the Treasury’s total for 2009.

And keep in mind, the number listed is in billions.

Oh another important thing: The parentheses around the number means it’s negative.

10 Responses to “You Can Use the Government’s Own Figures”

  1. Mike O'Grady says:

    It’s even worse than that. I was expected Expenses to be placed in the negative, then added to Revenue in order to calculate a Profit or Loss.
    However, it’s already been done for us. The wording is “total present value of expenditures in excess of future revenue.”
    It would otherwise be phrased as “Total Present Loss, even after calculating the stuff we hope to get in the future through coercion. The revenue obtained is nearly insignificant compared to the moral and economic bankruptcy of our position. ”
    Is there anyone left that can actually take our government seriously after seeing this?

  2. bobmurphy says:

    t’s even worse than that.

    I hate to quibble, but what did you think I was saying? I was talking about insolvency, a concept which requires you to compare receipts and expenses.

    • Mike O'Grady says:

      Don’t worry, I’m completely quibbilizable. Your description was fairly clear. I was just surprised by the wording of the report–appearing Orwellian in its description of Loss. That and 45 Trillion.
      Some people tell me that’s a number. And that it’s big. Large even.

  3. Art says:

    I hate to ruin the surprise for anyone, but is that 45 TRILLION??? Wow…

    • bobmurphy says:

      Please, let’s not round down the $878 billion. That’s serious money.

  4. Bob Roddis says:


    Like minus $45.8 trillion?

    You libertarians really are a bunch of kooks thinking we are in financial trouble.

  5. Art says:

    Those numbers are almost impossible to put in perspective, but think about this, if you spend $10 million per day, you would need 12,569 years to spend 45.878 trillion. We are so doomed.

  6. Art says:

    Sorry about the multiple comments, but I just noted one more thing. These numbers are overly optimistic, because they assume that future expenditures will be way lower than future revnues, thus reducing somewhat the deficit. Today’s numbers clearly show that current expenditures are way higher than current expenditures, and result in a real deficit of over 52 trillion.

    Your point is well taken in that you can still make your case even with flawed government numbers, but just wanted to point that out.

  7. Jeremy says:

    “Please, let’s not round down the $878 billion. That’s serious money.”

    Hahaha. Love it.

    Ready? Sweep it all under the rug….

  8. NOTAL says:

    Mike, here’s a nice Orwellian tidbit:
    “Revenue (e.g., Contributions . . . ”
    Contributions? So people are voluntarily contributing, like to charity, right?