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Medicare, Social Security Owe Up to $52 Trillion to Current Retirees and Workers
Date:12/3/2008

Debts Up To Three and Half Times Greater Than Entire U.S. Economy

DALLAS, Dec. 3 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- If the federal government stopped the Medicare and Social Security programs tomorrow -- collecting no more payroll taxes and allowing no more accrual of benefits -- it would still owe up to $52 trillion to those who have already earned these benefits, according to a new study by the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA).

"The numbers are staggering," said Andrew Rettenmaier, an NCPA senior fellow and coauthor of the study. "No one thinks we are going to end these programs," he said, "but if we account for federal obligations the way private pensions and state and local governments are required to, the federal government owes up to $52 trillion (in current dollars) as of today."

To put the numbers in perspective, the size of the entire U.S. economy is $14 trillion. The newly released study determined that:

  • An estimated $9.5 trillion is owed to current retirees -- an amount equal to almost $250,000 per person 65 years of age and older in 2008.
  • Adding the liability owed to those nearing retirement (55 and older) more than doubles the accrued debt to $20.6 trillion.
  • Adding the benefits accrued by younger workers brings the total to as much as $52 trillion. The beneficiaries include all retirees, as well as anyone in the workforce above 22 years of age.

If Medicare and Social Security continue on their current course, the obligations of taxpayers will grow. In the spring, the Social Security/Medicare trustees reported that if Social Security and Medicare were to continue indefinitely, the present value of the unfunded obligation is $101.7 trillion, or seven times the size of the national economy.

Currently, the two programs combined are spending more than the
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SOURCE National Center for Policy Analysis
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