USA Today Accounts for Unfunded Liabilities

The USA Today has an interesting article on the "real federal deficit" for 2011. They say that the $1.3 trillion is dwarfed by a more comprehensive tally that includes changes in unfunded liabilities:

The big difference between the official deficit and standard accounting: Congress exempts itself from including the cost of promised retirement benefits. Yet companies, states and local governments must include retirement commitments in financial statements, as required by federal law and private boards that set accounting rules.

The deficit was $5 trillion last year under those rules. The official number was $1.3 trillion. Liabilities for Social Security, Medicare and other retirement programs rose by $3.7 trillion in 2011, according to government actuaries, but the amount was not registered on the government's books.

In addition, for 2010, when the deficit number was similar to 2011, the accrual accounting deficit was much higher at $5.6 trillion.

Read the full USA Today piece here.