How to pay down America's deficit $1 trillion at a time
By Stephen D. Forman (LTCA)
Long Term Care Associates, Inc.
As a population, how much money do we waste and fritter away annually that could otherwise be pumped into our economy toward growth?
An idea recently gained traction among everyone from celebrity endorsers to syndicated economists, before just as swiftly attracting legislation to ban its enaction, that of minting a $1trillion platinum coin to pay down the nation’s deficit.
“This scheme to mint trillion dollar platinum coins is absurd and dangerous, and would be laughable if the proponents weren’t so serious about it as a solution,” said Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR).
There’s a certain attraction that comes from the idea of a “just add water” trillion dollars, but the idea was sadly over before it began. It turns out such a coin would require vastly more platinum than has ever been mined, or exists, on Earth.
Meanwhile, the money we owe continues its inexorable march towards infinity. As of this writing, the debt clock lists our debt at $16.4 trillion, our deficit at $1.074 trillion, and total debt per citizen at $184,319.
Is there any solution besides a Miracle Coin? Of course!
Some may remember President Obama’s bi-partisan Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, aka the Gang of Six. They delivered a comprehensive plan in December, 2010 which was so good … that both sides recoiled in cowardice from its six-part plan.
Even today, in the wake of reporting that health care spending has grown for the third straight year — and will accelerate in the years ahead — the Commonwealth Fund has produced a set of recommendations for saving $2 trillion over the next decade. But who has that much time?
Instead, I’d like to propose something a little different — namely, I’d like to share some stats I’ve been collecting.
The fact of the matter is, for many years now, my eye has been caught by news stories heralding bountiful savings ripe for the plucking by the American people. Anytime a university researcher, economist or Parade Magazine(!) trots out some wildly extravagant statistic, I scratch my head and wonder, “How unfortunate that everyone reports from within their own silos. What would happen if everyone shared their research? Might it accumulate to something?”
After jotting down the annual savings from these pop culture reports for a while, I found that they do amount to something: more than enough to offset the deficit. Mind you, this is obviously non-scientific, and I’m not here to suggest that in any way that the savings accrued by exercising could somehow be applied to the federal government’s obligations. They can’t.
Rather, the point is an esoteric one: As a population, how much money do we waste and fritter away annually that could otherwise be pumped into our economy toward growth?
- $290,000,000,000 — Medication non-adherence
- $260,000,000,000 — Deportation of undocumented immigrants (UCLA Magazine, 4/12)
- $224,000,000,000 — Excessive drinking
- $150,000,000,000 — Not exercising
- $150,000,000,000 — Not legalizing undocumented workers (UCLA Magazine, 4/12)
- $125,400,000,000 — Federal government's improper payments
- $100,000,000,000 — Business cost of unsolicited email (Spam)
- $100,000,000,000 — Tax haven abuse
- $100,000,000,000 — Tooth decay and dentistry (UCLA Magazine, 4/12)
- $97,000,000,000 — Smoking-related illness: lost productivity
- $96,000,000,000 — Smoking-related illness: direct medical costs
- $60,000,000,000 — Health care fraud
- $48,000,000,000 — Piracy and counterfeiting of U.S. software by China
- $34,000,000,000 — Complementary alternative medicine (CAM)
- $23,100,000,000 — Productivity lost to deaths from unvaccinated children
- $20,000,000,000— Urinary incontinence in women
- $12,000,000,000 — Shoplifting
$9,009,000,000 — Off-label use of atypical anti-psychotics
- $7,700,000,000 — "Dispense as written"
- $6,800,000,000 — Unnecessary medical tests and procedures
- $2,000,000,000 — Depression-related worker productivity losses
- $295,000,000 — False billing to Medicare
- $190,000,000 — Improper Medicare payments for scooters
What about you? What studies have you read which purport to save billions or trillions of dollars? Please share them in the comment section below. Is it fair or unfair to link the size of the deficit with the savings accrued by the list? What do you think about “silos” in professional research?