(National Post) At a European conference on the sovereign-debt crises that I attended this week, my overwhelming conclusion, after listening to many experts, is that the U.S. is in far more trouble than Europe.
This was brought home by calculations presented by Larry Kotlikoff of Boston University at a lecture held at the International Institute of Public Finance, the biggest gathering of public-finance experts in the world. Greece may be bankrupt, but the U.S. looks like a giant Ponzi scheme.
Kotlikoff’s calculations show that U.S. unfunded liabilities total US$222-trillion, the highest of all major OECD countries (12% of the time value of U.S. GDP) once accounting for monetary public debt, Social Security deficits and public-health-care unfunded liabilities. One can quibble with some of the calculations, but no one can doubt that the U.S. is in serious fiscal trouble, more so than any other developed economy.
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The U.S. reflects the most extreme case of intergenerational inequality. Generation after generation has participated in a Ponzi game, leaving younger taxpayers to pick up the tab for money effectively borrowed by older generations to spend on unfunded benefits. Kotlikoff labelled such practices as “child fiscal abuse,” a rather strong term but not far from the truth.