You have to love off-balance sheet financing

The first time I saw a pile of off-balance sheet items disclosed in a set of financial statements, it was while reviewing a client’s in a conference room adjacent to bankruptcy court. The last time I looked at them, the subject was Enron.

Does it come as any surprise that the US Government plays the same disclosure games?

As David Walker, the head of the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office, pointed out, “The federal government’s obligations, current liabilities, and unfunded fiscal commitments are over $43 trillion and rising. . . . Yes, that’s trillions with 12 zeros rather than billions with nine zeros.”

Very well.

The estimated net worth of American families is slightly over $47 trillion, and nearly all of it–90 per-cent–would be needed to cover government’s current obligations. And don’t think we can grow our way out of this hole. According to the GAO, it would take real double-digit growth over the next 75 years to pay off our current debt–an impossible task, considering that the growth rate during the 1990s boom years averaged just 3.2 percent.

Not so well.

I just hope that $47 trillion number doesn’t include real estate equity.

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