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Government payouts - including Social Security, Medicare and unemployment comp - now make up...

Government payouts - including Social Security, Medicare and unemployment comp - now make up more than a third of U.S. wages. “The U.S. economy has become alarmingly dependent on government stimulus,” says one economist, and the numbers are bound to get worse as Baby Boomers move into retirement. The deficit time bomb keeps ticking.
Comments (62)
  • "Never let a good crisis go to waste." Rahm Emanual.


    Welcome to "Hope and Change", President Obama.
    8 Mar 2011, 06:46 PM Reply Like
  • Duh.


    What's Leading the Recovery


    What's taking shape so far is a recovery (if you can call it that) led by:


    --profit or sales growth of exportables (including commodities, perishable goods and high-tech);
    --job growth in government and heavily government supported, regulated or influenced industries (health care, money center banks, education, utilities, interest groups and lobbyists);
    --job growth in the government-driven D.C.-Maryland-Virginia megalopolis.
    --economic growth in Asia.....


    Government and exportables are key. Most of everything else continues to shrink or deteriorate.




    8 Mar 2011, 07:36 PM Reply Like
  • Social Security has a positive balance .


    Defense Budget is 50% of the deficit.
    8 Mar 2011, 06:57 PM Reply Like
  • Paulo,


    In case you did not know.
    Interest payments are the largest growing portion, and may soon eclipse all others.


    Any positive effects from the current (and yes, I mean current)
    cash flow from FICA, has already been embezzled.
    8 Mar 2011, 07:06 PM Reply Like
  • It has a positive balance, but that balance is irrelevant. There is no there there. It was raided by congress in the 1960s to fund Lyndon Johnson's great society programs. It became just another income tax, and the surplus was spent by congress every year.


    Last year it went negative, collections were less than payouts. It might recover and hover around breakeven depending on the economy, but likely by the middle of this decade it will have to be paid out of general revenues in ever increasing amounts.


    And it pales beside the medicare/medicaid payouts that are coming.
    8 Mar 2011, 07:48 PM Reply Like
  • It is a really big surprise that in 2009 in the middle of the biggest recession in 50 years S.S. was a little negative !


    Just increase the S.S. contribution limit to 250.000 USD a year and problem is solved for more 20 years.
    8 Mar 2011, 07:58 PM Reply Like
  • If we cut the defense budget how will we arm the Israeli's?
    8 Mar 2011, 11:52 PM Reply Like
  • > If we cut the defense budget how will we arm the Israeli's


    Ha-ha. Arming Israel is not included in defense budget, it is counted as "foreign aid".
    9 Mar 2011, 12:21 AM Reply Like
  • I figured it was foreign aid, but I can't plausibly see the US shirking our military while continuing to provide the same level of weapons to other nations, so I figured I'd say it anyway. Plus, it made me laugh.


    To balance the budget and eliminate the deficit the US will need to cut entitlements AND raise taxes. It won't be popular, but it will need to happen. Since each party is completely against one of those two things, Im not sure it will happen.
    9 Mar 2011, 12:50 AM Reply Like
  • It's happening already, its a monetary term called 'devaluation'. As I work in the Health sector from a macro position I can tell you cuts have already started. The howling will start when necessities in life saving medicines and procedures are rationed.
    9 Mar 2011, 04:35 PM Reply Like
  • In case you don't know the Defense budget is 800 billion on a 1,6 trillion deficit.
    8 Mar 2011, 07:15 PM Reply Like
  • Using econdoc's statistics, medicare/medicaid is 23 % of federal budget, social security (welfare) is 20 % and defense is 20 %. And the medicare/medicaid doesn't include the approximately $500 billion tax subsidy given to Fortune 500 corporations for their health plans. It just boggles the mind that they would want to force individuals to have health insurance ($10 billion?) and leave the corporate subsidy alone. Actually, it makes no sense to have health care through the work place anyway, especially subsidized.


    If we're ever going to get any kind of balance, these three have to be at the top of the list. Sure there are lots of federal departments that could just go away (education, agriculture, energy, etc.) but they are small potatoes compared to these heavy hitters.


    Less spending or more taxes - tough choices. I think the choice will be 'none of the above'. :-)
    8 Mar 2011, 07:56 PM Reply Like
  • Mdmjsds,


    Who the hell is Econdoc, and what are his credentials, if any?
    8 Mar 2011, 08:34 PM Reply Like
  • Wow! Every Fox News talking point known to man all wrapped up in a few short paragraphs! You should have mentioned Muslims, though.
    8 Mar 2011, 10:51 PM Reply Like
  • paulo, Defense is the only constitutionally mandated expense. most of the other expenses are just vote buying. We need to cut a lot more of the rest to return our government to its rightful place.
    9 Mar 2011, 10:34 AM Reply Like
  • We're screwed. The only thing you can do is move to another country to avoid the carnage of the utter collapse that is coming.
    8 Mar 2011, 07:16 PM Reply Like
  • Can I have your stuff?
    8 Mar 2011, 07:25 PM Reply Like
  • Better start savings for your retirement.
    8 Mar 2011, 07:20 PM Reply Like
  • Why? The government will only inflate it away. Bought a $20,000 insurance policy in 1968. That was twice my annual salary so that my wife would have something to live on in case. Now it barely covers the burial expenses.
    8 Mar 2011, 08:26 PM Reply Like
  • and the politicians are fighting over a 60 billion cut.......out of a 1.6 trillion deficit...I am laughing so hard I am puking...what are they thinking...that a 1.54 trillion deficit is OK...LOL..sick..we are sick and dying...if this is what is "leading" us now
    8 Mar 2011, 07:22 PM Reply Like
  • I refuse to support spoiled Babyboomers! They had many years during the bull market to save for retirement.
    8 Mar 2011, 07:24 PM Reply Like
  • Hey GenX, it's a demographic problem. Shall I blame people for the mistakes they made in the 1880's creating knock on effects? Some good ones were made as well and here we are and many more of us and better off to boot (minus current LOG period).


    Malthusians have been wrong this last century but such tend to be in the wealth imbalance scale on one end.


    Now, we the GenXers better start dancing meaning prepare and innovate to make accomodations for everyone on earth. I am an American, my dream can be nothing else as grand a milestone. If three yards is all we get in the history of our generation then let's make them interesting, shall we?
    8 Mar 2011, 07:40 PM Reply Like
  • The Social Security program has a 2.3 trillion surplus accumulated from payroll taxes paid by the boomers held in treasury bonds that should last until 2040 or so.


    What you are losing is the subsidy for government spending that started in about 1983 when Reagan realized he could fund his military expansion by borrowing from the trust fund. The loss of that subsidy means either cuts to other programs, QE-SS where the Fed buys these treasuries or increases in taxes.
    8 Mar 2011, 08:08 PM Reply Like
  • Jason Rines (iThinkBig) said
    Malthusians have been wrong this last century but such tend to be in the wealth imbalance scale on one end.


    Malthusians have been wrong if you lived in the US (and other developed countries). The rest of the world wasn't so fortunate. I've read estimates that there are still about 3 billion people living on less than $2 US per day in the world. For them, all the horrors that Malthus described are true.


    And likely will be for the foreseeable future. Since they are the people who are having more babies than they can afford to raise to have a better life, the problem is perpetuated. No education, no health care, inadequate food, shelter, and clothing, combined with the cultures evolved for a different world that they live in. In the modern world that's another way of saying 'Doomed'.
    8 Mar 2011, 08:16 PM Reply Like
  • From the mouths of babes -- spoiled babyboomers -- wow -- there are many hard working baby boomers that worked to build this country via blue collar jobs - they paid their taxes and you think they should have been studying the markets -- what a joke! Let's hope that Gen Y has a bit more compassion when you are ready to retire.
    8 Mar 2011, 10:33 PM Reply Like
  • suffer from the same incredulity as me. My response was similar. Just can't believe I worked my ass off my entire life and this guy says I'm spoiled. I'll compare my "sacrifice" resume to his any day. Gotta love it.
    9 Mar 2011, 03:58 AM Reply Like
  • MDM, has the global survival rate at birth increased or decreased in the last 100 years? Has the percentages of water, sewerage and electrical services increased globally or decreased?


    If you are still adamant mankind lives worse than a century ago I am happy to send detail.


    I am growing sick of all the information about doom. If you are scared then hedge with a winter's worth of food and water like the rest of the animal kingdom. You'll feel a lot better if you do. Now if history rythmes there is risk of major military misadventure on a global scale. Those risks concern me but doomed? Please.


    I will continue quietly building the solutions that can be implemented until the demographic imbalance rights itself through nature and mankind is screaming for a virtuous growth cycle because their is no other way to grow. Loss mitigation is really what I am attempting to accomplish. You're statements are not leadership material. No worries, I'll lead you through to the promised land and you can pay me to do it.
    10 Mar 2011, 02:25 PM Reply Like
  • Social Security started off as a welfare program that quickly turned into a pension program. Many older people in this country are counting on it for retirement.


    I would like to see it go back to its original design as a safety net program for the truly impoverished by gradually taxing it more as income. But there are two issues that come before that phase-


    One is a huge defense budget for wasteful and failing foreign wars that needs to be brought to heel. The corporate welfare for the 'defense industry' needs to be examined before any cuts to our welfare programs that serve our citizens.


    Secondly, this country needs to join the REST OF THE WORLD with a form of single payer, universal health care. If we are going to wean our society off Social Security as a pension system, it needs to commit to covering basic health care needs.


    Covering health care and cutting the gargantuan defense budget should come before taking the painful but necessary step of transforming Social Security from a pension program back to its rightful place as welfare program for those truly in need.


    Convincing American political leadership of this is difficult though due to entrenched lobbies for health care, defense, and older citizens.


    Many Gen Xers realized this situation a long time ago. We know we won't see Social Security checks, and we may be left fixing the whole mess.
    8 Mar 2011, 07:27 PM Reply Like
  • sburger-I could not agree more with you!
    8 Mar 2011, 07:39 PM Reply Like


    Gee FDR, thanks for not telling us!
    8 Mar 2011, 07:46 PM Reply Like
  • S.S. is fixable. Medical care for the entire load requires a hell of a lot
    more competition. No worries, only seven more years of 'lost decade' season 2.
    8 Mar 2011, 07:57 PM Reply Like
  • The link ran to an offensively titled article on CNBC, titled something about "welfare state" and "handouts."


    I paid into Social Security all my working life and it is not a handout. It's a safety net for the elderly and disabled, funded by taxes. I also paid into Medicare all my working life. It is also a safety net for the elderly, funded by taxes.


    My employers paid into the unemployment system a percentage of my wages all my working life. It's an insurance system, and safety net, funded by taxes a/o insurance premiums. The premiums are collected on a merit rated system whereby employers that fire the most workers pay the most premiums.


    These safety net type programs would not be so large a part of everyone's income if the income in this country were not distributed so unequally. Many of those who received huge bonuses on Wall Street contributed to the financial crisis that put millions of hardworking Americans out of the jobs. Their financial innovation was a kleptocracy, they sold bogus mortgages by the millions and then bet against the US housing industry, knowing full well that they had destroyed its underpinnings.


    I don't come to Seeking Alpha to see a lot of politically slanted stuff about "handouts" and "welfare." Linking to a piece of CNBC drivel doesn't do anything to promote knowledge or skill useful in investing.


    Very regretfully these same highflying bankers with their lying, cheating and stealing crashed the stock market, where my retirement funds were invested. I have spent the last several years day trading for a living while waiting for time to heal my investments. That phase is drawing to a close, thankfully.


    But I am entitled to social security and medicare, and they are not handouts. I paid in, and I will take out. And I will vote against any politician who feels that his idiology is served by preventing me from taking out where I put in.
    8 Mar 2011, 07:50 PM Reply Like
  • Naw. Its an entitlement.


    I have a crack cousin derelict that gets checks from SSI and never worked a day in her life.



    Sure they say its not paid for with SS but rather other tax revenue. Not true. And social security manages it. Its the same.
    8 Mar 2011, 07:58 PM Reply Like
  • Let me remind you, that as crappy as you see things in this country, it is still the very best place on Earth to live. There is no argument about this. There are billions of foreigners who will walk over hot coals to take your place here. We have many things that need improvement but we also have the very best environment for living, working and raising a family. Focus, if you will, on making those crappy things better.
    8 Mar 2011, 07:52 PM Reply Like
  • "Let me remind you, that as crappy as you see things in this country, it is still the very best place on Earth to live."


    For how long? It's gonna be a really bloody decade and the West in waning.
    8 Mar 2011, 08:05 PM Reply Like
  • If you truly believe that then move away while you can and send us a post card. BTW, after you choose where you are moving to let us know so we can track your progress.
    8 Mar 2011, 08:09 PM Reply Like
  • you obviously have never been outside the USA bubble. The only foreigners you get here anymore are mexicans,central americans,burmese iraqis, and afghans.I've personally visited the latter three and I actually would rather live in Burma than the US, but not the other two.


    everybody else is riding the emerging market boom at home, maybe an MBA or PhD stint in the US and then goodbye.
    8 Mar 2011, 08:43 PM Reply Like
  • Already gone a long time ago, but I live off the grid thank you.
    8 Mar 2011, 08:44 PM Reply Like
  • Government payouts - including Social Security, Medicare and unemployment comp - now make up more than a third of U.S. wages.


    Right off the bat this statement is wrong. Wages are earned income, not benefits paid by Uncle Sam or more accurately the taxpayers, which is a declining group in the US.


    And anyone that thinks the Social Security system has a surplus, is living in a dream world. Social Security surpluses have been use as an accounting offset to the budget deficit for a long time. All excess Social Security taxes by law are special US Govt bonds but, will become general obligations of the US Govt (taxpayers, young people) once the baby boomers retiring become critcal mass (about 10 years from now).
    8 Mar 2011, 08:18 PM Reply Like
  • Do you pay taxes on social security?
    8 Mar 2011, 09:57 PM Reply Like
  • Its amazing to me how much ignorance there is about S.S. Medicare and unemployment. I think the politicians like it that way. Unemployment is not part of your wages. It is paid for by your employer.
    8 Mar 2011, 08:35 PM Reply Like
  • I love that one. When people think they pay for unemployment.
    The rate of free money you get is based on your past 6-12 months salary.
    People fail to realize that during this crisis; employers have had a major rate rise in their unemployment contributions to help offset the 2 years we now support the unemployed for. This, healthcare and all the instability of our political , regulatory, tax environment and our government cannot figure out why hiring isn't going faster....
    This is a sad mess.
    8 Mar 2011, 09:23 PM Reply Like
  • PHXcrane,


    Yes by design, for 26 weeks of benefits, is what the premiums paid by employers were in most cases based on.


    It has however Morphed into a State/ federal entitlement program since then.


    8 Mar 2011, 09:24 PM Reply Like
  • I disagree.


    The unemployment your employer pays is directly related to your employment. In that respect I say it comes out of your pay, i.e., your wages.


    I consider this the same as "matching" on your 401k. It is a component of your salary that should be considered the same as your regular pay. It is not "free money" or some "bonus". You earn it by working.
    8 Mar 2011, 10:00 PM Reply Like
  • OK, so how do I roll over my SS contributions from the trust fund into an IRA?
    8 Mar 2011, 10:16 PM Reply Like
  • Sorry it is very different than a 401k match.
    It is factored into hiring; it is an employee load factor like payroll taxes but in no way is it your money.
    A company can not choose not to pay unemployment insurance, or the rise in unemployment insurance.
    A company can however choose not to match or reduce other benefits.
    It is very different than benefits.
    8 Mar 2011, 10:45 PM Reply Like
  • Very well put. But I am not sure alphaox will get it. Maybe, there is always hope. After reading most of these comments I doubt it.
    8 Mar 2011, 11:14 PM Reply Like
  • Non-employers have no idea how bad the recent increases have been, or how unemployment even works for that matter. Employers fund 100% of the states 26 week unemployment fund through a tax collected against gross payrolls each year. Employees contribute 0% to this fund.


    Here in Virginia our annual unemployment premium (tax) into the state fund was approx $1,740 on our staff of 4 employees in 2008. In 2010, our annual premium increased to around $13,600. That's more than $3,000 per employee! Our premium for 2011 is about the same. This increase in our employment costs ate up any cost of living increase we might have been able to give our people in 2010, and probably this year too. Of course, this year they get the little Obama withholding kickback, so it doesn't look quite as bad to them. In a sense, both us (the employer) AND the employees do share the pain to pay for other peoples 'safety net'. We pay, and then get to decide how much of the cost we will pass onto the employees. Just like frigin Health Insurance. But mostly the burden, like everything else, falls on the employer. The worst part about VA is that they assess an 'annual' unemployment tax every year, but they force you to fund the entire 'annual' amount across the first 16 weeks of the year, so we can't even distribute that cost through the whole year - the entire years tax is front loaded Jan - Apr. Those first 8 payrolls this year are proving to be a mother.


    The thing that really kicks my butt is that we've never laid anyone off in 11 years, so our premium rate into the state fund is really rather low. Of course my wife and I, as principals, are not eligible for unemployment compensation should the business fail or we decide to pack it in - you know, like in the case they actually try to make us issue 6,000 1099's next year.


    One thing is for sure, it sure does discourage you to hire another employee when it will cost you an extra $3,000+ per head for the foreseeable future. Better to spend the money buying robots, at least you can depreciate those.


    Fortuantely, we use our Corporate structure (like most business owners) to reduce our personal SS contributions to the absolute bare minimum and contribute the saved premiums into a SEP which becomes a tax writeoff to reduce our overall taxable income. That at least allows us to keep a little more of our own money, and that SEP is going to pay us a LOT more in retirement after 30 years than any SS check ever would. And if it doesn't, oh well, my bad.
    9 Mar 2011, 01:43 AM Reply Like
  • Fact is Cap'n, there aren't many employers who post here at SA. So not many will even understand your plight. Its all about the socialist worker party, rah rah rah.
    9 Mar 2011, 01:52 AM Reply Like
  • glad you explained it our family runs a small business and emplyees about 50-60 people the unemployment cost on them is amazing.
    9 Mar 2011, 08:19 AM Reply Like
  • Correct, my EUI rate in NH went up from 3% to 7.8% this year. I hire people that found work even if it was working fast food out of a sense of pride than accepting unemployment. But the people will not continue to allow the perpetuation of theft and broken rule of law that as Tom mentions facilitated millions being out of work.
    10 Mar 2011, 03:17 PM Reply Like
  • When will we learn that taxes will eventually have to increase substantially? I recently read that income tax rates will need to increase to over 70% on average (state plus federal) in 10 years to support how much the government's spending in terms of government pension obligation, and future debt interest alone, not including defense, health, etc.
    8 Mar 2011, 10:10 PM Reply Like
  • When will we learn that spending will have to decrease dramatically?


    Justify any of this.



    Justify any of it besides the marines, the navy, the army and air force.
    8 Mar 2011, 10:14 PM Reply Like
  • Remember: Carter drove the nation into stagflation, which continued for two years into the Reagan administration. And we are in a much deeper hole, deficit wise, and still have added burden of Obamacare to wrestle with.
    Even with a change of president, this will be tough sledding. No wimps allowed.
    8 Mar 2011, 10:28 PM Reply Like
  • So many observations from the "Me" generation. Hello? The previous generation made most advantages you now enjoy possible. Too bad for the generation that in turn depends on you.
    8 Mar 2011, 10:29 PM Reply Like
  • Personally, I am in complete favor of the Gen X people receiving SS who paid for it most of their working lives. They rightfully earned that benefit in my opinion.


    SS should be a program for the disabled or those incapable of providing for themselves. Any other dependency on it should start to be dissolved. For example, anyone age 18 and younger will not get SS benefits but still would pay in a slight percentage to maintain it. Sure, it would suck for those individuals but sacrifices must be made by everyone if the problems will ever go away.


    I'd love to opt-out of any future "anticipated" benefit and contribute, say 50% of what I currently pay. That would be my contribution to society, and I'd be better off putting the other 50% in my own retirement accounts.


    I'm sure there are some genius mathematicians out there who can figure out how to make it solvent while slowly dissolving the program.


    Of course, its a dream that will never happen, but something must be done. An individuals retirement should be their own responsibility, not managed by government bureaucracy.
    8 Mar 2011, 11:40 PM Reply Like
  • Seems an appropriate thread for this...


    "The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money." --- Alexis de Tocqueville
    9 Mar 2011, 09:07 AM Reply Like
  • Sorry for the double posting, but I just came across this piece which seems at least somewhat appropriate after all the "wailing and gnashing of teeth" here. File under "fiddling while Rome burns"...

    9 Mar 2011, 09:27 AM Reply Like
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