U.S. Bankrupt (Editorial)

A couple of weeks ago there was a report that received little attention, even among the business media, that essentially said the United States is bankrupt.

The analysis by Boston University professor of economics Laurence J. Kotlikoff was something he'd written for the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis back in November titled "Is the United States Bankrupt?" Kotlikoff said the U.S. is "insofar as it will be unable to pay its creditors, who, in this context, are current and future generations to whom it has explicitly or implicitly promised future net payments of various kinds."

He said, "The gap between the U.S. government's future expenses and tax receipts is $63.3 trillion." That's more than five times the U.S. gross domestic product and almost twice the size of the national wealth, Kotlikoff wrote.

In his new book "Conservatives Betrayed," conservative Republican Richard Viguerie calls President Bush a traitor to his party and claims federal spending under Bush has grown five times larger than during the second term of the Clinton administration.

Viguerie said that during Clinton's first term, federal expenditures, adjusted for inflation, rose 4.7 percent. In his second term, they rose 3.7 percent. In the first term of the Bush administration, however, spending rose 19.2 percent.

He goes on to point out that Bush has not objected to even $1 in congressional spending and says the 121 percent increase in pork-barrel projects since 2000 is an indication that having total power in Washington has corrupted the GOP.

All of us, but particularly those of us in the media, need to be more skeptical of the numbers spun out by the government. In the rush to get the information out, we often fail to ask the tough questions to get at the truth of what it all means and what, if anything, is being done to correct it. We in the media mustn't let that be.