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Economic Review

May/Jun, 1991

The Stealth Budget: Unfunded Liabilities of the Federal Government

Roy H. Webb

The federal budget is incomplete. Action have been taken that will require spending in the future; provision for that spending does not, however, appear in the budget accounts. As a result, stated federal spending does not reveal the total resource demands placed on the private economy and stated federal debt does not reveal the full burden that taxpayers will face in the future. The amounts involved are not trivial. Several programs had unfunded liabilities in 1989 in excess of $4 trillion, whereas the conventionally stated gross federal debt at that time was less than $3 trillion.

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