The United States has amassed nearly $12 trillion in federal debt and another $44 trillion in unfunded liabilities — all at a time when our nation faces a deepening financial and economic crisis. With health care costs rapidly rising and 78 million baby boomers about to retire, straining our Social Security and Medicare systems, our country faces severe long-term fiscal challenges, which could lead to steep tax hikes, major cutbacks in federal spending, higher interest rates, inflation and a declining economy — not to mention an unsustainable path for our children and grandchildren.

Heading for Trouble

The U.S. government is living beyond its means -- far beyond its means. As a result, we’ve built up a staggering amount of national debt and unfunded federal liabilities, potentially made much worse by the current financial crisis. Worse yet, we have put ourselves in this fiscal hole at exactly the wrong time, because we are committed to paying enormous amounts in Social Security and Medicare as the huge baby boom generation starts to retire over the next few years.

How This Affects You

Deep budget cuts, deep benefit cuts, crippling tax rates, higher interest rates for everybody, hyperinflation, economic decline — these are the all-too-real implications of our growing fiscal crisis.


Our short multimedia presentations will tell you more about the basic facts behind the nation’s financial challenges. Here's What We're Up Against runs through the basic problems facing the country and gives a quick rundown on how the federal government spends its money. Americans Deliberate our Finances and our Future takes you inside the ChoiceDialogue sessions where people from all walks of life discuss what we can do to solve the problem. This is just a start – we’ll have more multimedia to come as the Facing Up initiative moves forward.

Facts & Figures

It can seem daunting to grasp some of the problems facing the nation’s finances, especially when government spending is in the trillions, but the core concepts are actually pretty simple to understand. Here, we break down the basic numbers and percentages and put them in context, drawing upon the data and resources of our partners, as well as invaluable sources like the Congressional Budget Office, the Government Accountability Office, and the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Social Security

Social Security, the federal program providing income security for retirees, the disabled, and their survivors, is one of the most effective government programs in U.S. history. Unfortunately, it's also in trouble and no consensus has emerged, either in Washington or among the public at large, on what approach the nation should take to fix it. The good news, however, is that Social Security reform is more "doable", in that there is more potential for bipartisan consensus than on reforms of health care or tax policy.

How To Stop Piling Up Deficits & Debt

Somewhere along the line our country has fallen into a pattern in which running large budget deficits has become our normal operating procedure. This means that most years in recent memory we’ve spent much more in government programs than we are willing to raise in tax revenues. We’ve then borrowed money to cover the balance. The result is a mammoth and growing federal debt that is now approaching $12 trillion — growing even more rapidly because of our nation’s current economic difficulties, rapid health care cost growth and tens of millions of baby boomers on the verge of retirement. (Find out more about our "Choicework" discussion guides, or download the PDF version of this choicework guide).

Health Care

Health care reform dominates the news and public debate, and whatever reform is enacted (if any) will far from solve all of our nation's health care problems. Health care is an enormous, and enormously complex issue, and many people in both parties have said many things, some true, some misleading. This discussion guide is intended to help you understand the issue and the many choices for possible reform.

Using Our Tax Dollars Wisely

Because of the global financial crisis, U.S. government spending is up sharply, and is likely to rise even more with the stimulus package intended to strengthen the U.S. economy. Indeed, the U.S. government is expected to spend at least $3.5 trillion in 2009. That is about one-quarter of the nation’s economy. But how do we know if it will be wisely spent?
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