Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


Federal financial commitments now run to $12.8 trillion

Since last fall, Mark Pittman and Bob Ivry of Bloomberg News have made a beat out of watching the bottom line in the U.S. government’s commitment of dollars–through lending, spending, and guarantees–to the financial crisis. In November, they estimated the sum at $7.4 trillion; as of last week, the figure had grown to $12.8 trillion.

As they write, “The money works out to $42,105 for every man, woman and child in the U.S. and 14 times the $899.8 billion of currency in circulation. The nation’s gross domestic product was $14.2 trillion in 2008.”

Both the dollars and the alphabet soup of programs concocted at Treasury, the Fed, and the FDIC are largely missing from mainstream media accounts of the government’s measures, so stop for a moment to look at the amazing table they’ve compiled.

You can also learn about all our free newsletter options.

Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 04/08/2009 - 09:07 am.

    From the Shadow Government Statistics site (, just a couple more numbers related to government obligations:

    “Since 2002, the Treasury has been reporting the government’s finances using annual statements prepared using accounting standards similar to those used in corporate America.

    Those numbers, however, did not account for the annual change in the net present value of unfunded Social Security and Medicare liabilities, except in discussions and footnotes. Counting those changes, as a corporation would for its pension and healthcare liabilities for retirees, the 2008 annual deficit was $5.1 trillion, versus $1.2 trillion in 2007. Such showed total U.S. obligations — gross federal debt outstanding plus the net present value of unfunded liabilities — at $66 trillion, roughly 4.6 times the level of reported U.S. GDP, and greater than total estimated global GDP.”

    If $12.8 trillion works out to $42,000 per man, woman and child, then $66 trillion is in excess of $200,000 per man, woman and child.

    Our kids and grandkids better get crackin’ right now, before they get too far behind the eight ball.

  2. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 04/09/2009 - 03:34 pm.

    Mr. Titterud: Social Security’s trust fund and tax receipts will pay all promised benefits in full until at least 2041, and after that in part. Raising the cap on the amount of earnings to be taxed now would eliminate any shortfall in the foreseeable future. As raising the cap in 1983 increased revenue to cover all baby boomer retires.

    If Medicare were to kill Part D and add a simple drug benefit to the current program, the annual saving would be a minimum of $30 billion/year (the saving Congress estimated a couple of years ago when it talked about negotiating prices). In addition to that saving, seniors would save billions in overpriced premiums, co-pays, deductibles and doughnut-hole purchases (paying full price when you reach a certain threshold, but also paying your monthly premium).

Leave a Reply