“… the federal government faces long-term challenges resulting from large and growing structural deficits that are driven primarily by rising health-care costs and known demographic trends. This unsustainable path must be addressed soon by policymakers. The longer actions are delayed, the more difficult adjustments are likely to become.”
These words in the 2009 Financial Report of the U.S. Government were written by Gene L. Dodaro, acting comptroller general. The report was released Feb. 26 by the Department of the Treasury. His words have many implications for pension funds and other institutional investors.
The federal government's sizable projected economic deficits and highly leveraged balance sheet suggests that managing money in the future will be much more challenging. If the direction the government finances are heading is not addressed soon, there will be dire consequences. The economy's growth rate will decline. Government debt owed to third parties will grow rapidly. Political instability will rise as politicians are unable to maintain social insurance benefit levels. Furthermore, debt and equity market volatility and credit spreads are likely to be well above historic market averages.
To understand the gravity of Mr. Dodaro's comments, one has to estimate the consolidated financial results and financial position of the U.S. government. This is necessary because none of the several sets of books published by the government provides the required consolidated information. The estimate needs to add our social program expenses to the financial report's statement of net costs (the “income statement”) and related obligations to the balance sheet. Currently, no social insurance costs or obligations other than current year expenses are consolidated in these financial report statements.