The Washington Post reports today that “the daunting tower of national, state and local debt in the United States will reach a level this year unmatched just after World War II and already exceeds the size of the entire economy, according to government estimates.” But there are a number of big differences between our national debt now and the debt in 1946. The Post reports: “State and municipal governments from Sacramento to Madison to Harrisburg have racked up about $2.4 trillion in debt, or more than 15 percent of GDP.”

And even this total is understating the problem. Recent studies show that state and local governments are severely underestimating their pension and benefit promises, including a $574 billion shortfall for the nation’s top major cities and a possible $3.4 trillion shortfall for the states. The cause of these crippling pension and benefit obligations is no secret. The Post explains: “Public employees often enjoy more generous pension and health-care benefits, and these are at the root of the long-term budget problems confronting many states.”

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