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Funding the U.S. Debt Binge

Written By Brian Hicks

Posted April 1, 2010

Sadly, for Daniel Webb, it all ended with a fatal heart attack.

Too obese to care for himself, Webb literally needed to be cut from the recliner he had been sitting in for nearly nine months. And even then — at 900lbs — firefighters had to saw a hole in the side of his mobile home in order to transport his body to the hospital. 

He died shortly thereafter en route to the hospital, his body covered with sores and emitting a "very bad odor," according to a police report.

"I only hope something good comes out of this," his mother said in the aftermath, "because it was so unnecessary." That’s something of the unspoken truth that revolves around those that are truly morbidly obese.

In fact, I’d be willing to bet that anyone who hears a story like this one asks themself the same question. When confronted with a tale of a poor soul like Daniel Webb, it’s a very simple question: Why?

Because while genetics and various medical conditions undoubtedly play a role in weight gain, the larger truth is that Webb ate himself to his tragic death in the recliner.

And while it’s true that a heart attack —unrelated to his obesity — could have killed him instead, a is no accident… just an accident waiting to happen.

But what I want to know is why didn’t he just stop eating? Did he not realize that he was killing himself?

And what about his family… Why didn’t they stop him before it was too late?

These are the answers I suppose most of us will never understand. Self-destruction in any form is something of a mystery.

Unfortunately, Mr. Webb is hardly alone. In fact, in many ways he reminds me of our own Uncle Sam.

The Ultimate Debt Binge

Uncle Sam is the equivalent of a 2000lb. man with a ravenous appetite for doughnuts and milkshakes — tasty food from a steady regimen of junk that has put him on the path to an early grave.

He knows it… You know it… And I know it. Yet nobody stops him. 

He’s still ordering meatlovers’ pizzas on the backs of future generations in the ultimate debt binge. And eventually, it will end in some sort of collapse.

Let’s face it — this "diet" is not sustainable forever. Much like Daniel Webb, our country has a tragic date with destiny… unless we radically change our course.

Now I’m not exactly holding my breath for that one. It seems to me (and to others, I’m sure) to be etched in stone, as the Warfare State and Welfare State rotate on their own axes. And the playbook of the last 60 years is killing us, but Washington just can’t seem to put it down and rethink the game plan. And make no mistake about it; both political parties are responsible for it.

Think of it as political inertia; like a dump truck full of sewage rolling uncontrollably down a steep incline. Eventually, though, it reaches the bottom of the hill.

And according to the Congressional Budget Office, that day may soon be approaching.

In the wake of the economic crisis, the federal public debt now totals $8.2 trillion — or $72,000 per household — on its way to $20.3 trillion (more than $170,000 per household) in 2020, according to the CBO’s latest deficit estimates. Over that time, interest payments would quadruple.

That is up from $6.3 trillion ($56,000 per household) from a little over a year ago, as Big Government gets even bigger.

By 2020, that figure would equal 90% of the estimated gross domestic product — up from 40% at the end of fiscal 2008. By comparison, the same ratio for Greece hit 115% last year as the economically troubled country spun closer to default.

What’s more, over that same period, interest payments on the debt would quadruple like a massive credit card gone wild.

Keep in mind, of course, that these are just estimates. But considering the government’s track record in these matters, it could happen much sooner or be even worse — especially if economic growth stagnates longer than expected.

To wit, consider Social Security. Its chief actuary now reports that the social safety net will run a deficit for 2010nine years earlier than predicted. 

The only mystery I can pinpoint in this scenario is why anyone is surprised…

Are Guaranteed Retirement Accounts the Answer? 

A recent poll from Quinnipiac University shows 49% of Americans are aware that Uncle Sam has a problem, but no one is really interested in helping him fix it or coming up with plausible solutions.

In the same poll, about 75% oppose any limit on entitlements from Social Security and Medicare, two of the largest contributors to the deficit.

Instead, according the poll, a full 60% think that taxing the rich (households making more than $250,000 annually) is the answer — even though most economists agree that imposing these kinds of taxes won’t be enough to make a dent in the budget hole.

That leaves the overstretched Middle Class as the folks who will be asked to pick up a big part of Uncle Sam’s dinner check. The problem: the money’s not there either, and foreign creditors are becoming more and more wary of Uncle Sam’s bloated condition.

Which is why, in order to keep spending us into oblivion, Washington is now putting your 401K in the cross hairs in exchange for annuities that will pay a government-guaranteed stream of income.

In fact, one of the front-running proposals focuses on what’s called "Guaranteed Retirement Accounts":

  • Pay you only an inflation-adjusted 3% on your money
  • Strip you of all tax breaks on traditional IRA and 401(k) accounts
  • Don’t allow you early access to your money, except for disability
  • Prohibit your voluntary opt-out; participation is mandatory
  • Seize as much as half of your accrued assets upon your death

So what are these retirement accounts going to consist of?

You guessed it… namely U.S. Treasuries — otherwise known as even more debt.

After all, you wouldn’t really expect Uncle Sam to go on a diet, would you?  

Even on his deathbed, it’s just not in his make-up. And I’m not alone in saying that I don’t understand why.

Your bargain-hunting analyst,

 steve sig

Steve Christ, Investment Director

The Wealth Advisory

P.S. Guaranteed Retirement Accounts are not just the rantings of the tin foil hat crowd or an April fool’s joke… They are as real as the sunrise. To learn more about how to plan for your own retirement without the helping hand of Uncle Sam, click here.