Federal Government's Financial Burden Grows By $10 Million A Minute

A financial responsibility group wants America to wake up to the federal government's financial problem.

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Burden Barometer.

Former U.S. comptroller general David Walker is sounding the alarm on the federal government's "financial sinkhole," which he says is growing deeper by about $10 million every minute.

By "sinkhole," Walker is not just referring to debt, but the government's total liabilities, unfunded social insurance promises, and other federal commitments. Through his fiscal responsibility group, the Comeback America Initiative, Walker wants Americans to know that the financial challenge facing our country is much larger than most people think.

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To reflect that challenge, the Comeback America Initiative has produced an enhanced and more comprehensive version of the National Debt Clock—the "Burden Barometer."

The Burden Barometer counts the government's financial obligations that go further than the national debt, such as retiree health obligations, Social Security and Medicare, and unfunded military pensions. As a result, the number is significantly higher than that displayed on the National Debt Clock.

At the time of this post, the National Debt Clock read $15.9 trillion, while the Burden Barometer read $69.9 trillion. (When the National Debt Clock was unveiled in 1989, it was at just $2.7 trillion.)

Walker points out that if Congress and President Barack Obama ever reach their so-called fiscal "grand bargain," the Debt Clock won't go down, but the Burden Barometer could—and by trillions.

To inform people of that message, the Comeback America Initiative has organized a bus tour in swing states aimed at getting undecided voters to choose candidates based on the economy.

"We want undecided voters to understand how serious the problem is," said Walker, an Independent who has served in both Democratic and Republican administrations. "And ask candidates to talk in a substantive, solution-based fashion about putting the nation's finances in order."

On its website, the Comeback America Initiative warns ominously about the Burden Barometer's rising number, and its extra available digit. "It can be used, if necessary. Hopefully this will never happen," the group writes. "Time is running out."

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  • Elizabeth Flock is a staff writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at eflock@usnews.com or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.