With little fanfare, the Government Accountability Office released a document last week that points to the day when the American dream dies and is buried beneath a middle-class welfare state.
You can see death coming for the American dream as surely as you can see cirrhosis coming for a drunk.
We are bringing it upon ourselves -- although not all Americans deserve what is going to happen. For one, our children don't deserve it. For another, Americans who have tried to live independent, self-reliant lives don't deserve it, either.
But they are going to be dragged down with everyone else, if we don't make dramatic changes in public policies soon.
What the document said is that what the GAO dryly calls the "federal fiscal gap" may now equal as much as $62.9 trillion.
That gap, says the GAO, is the amount that federal spending must be cut or federal taxes increased to pay the benefits of Medicare, Social Security and other federal entitlement programs that have been promised to people over the next 75 years.
The $62.7 trillion "gap" was calculated by assuming that the spending programs in President Obama's stimulus are only temporary, that other discretionary spending programs will grow only at the rate the economy grows and that the lower income-tax rates set by President Bush's tax cuts earlier this decade are allowed to continue for one more decade even though they are now scheduled to expire next year.
After 2019, in this calculation, federal tax revenues would remain constant at the long-term historical rate of 18.3 percent of gross domestic product.
Under another scenario, GAO assumed that discretionary federal spending would be frozen at the rate of inflation for the next 10 years and then allowed to grow with the economy and that the current lower income-tax rates would not be extended after next year, allowing annual federal tax revenues to increase by 11 percent, from 18.3 percent of GDP to 20.3 percent of GDP.
Under this scenario, the "federal fiscal gap" would be a mere $33.7 trillion.
So, what does $62.9 trillion -- or, for that matter, $33.7 trillion -- mean to your family and your earnings?
Well, according to the Census Bureau, there were 112,377,977 households in the United States in 2007. If every one of these households were charged an equal amount to cover a $62.9 trillion federal shortfall, they would each need to pay $559,778. If the shortfall was a mere $33.7 trillion, they would pay $299,880.
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