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How 'unsustainable' will Uncle Sam’s finances be in the annual financial report coming this afternoon?

March 28, 2019

At 3pm ET today, the Treasury Department will release the annual financial report of the United States Government for fiscal 2018.

The federal government’s financial position has deteriorated significantly in the last two decades. On our accounting, the federal government’s negative net position has quadrupled (downward) since 2000.

Significant accounting and financial issues shroud the government’s reported results, and we acknowledge uncertainty underlying our own reckoning. When faced with challenging financial valuation exercises, however, some simple cues can help inform analysis.

Here’s a chart showing the number of times the word “unsustainable” appears in the annual financial report in recent decades.

The use of this word arrives in discussions of the sustainability, or lack thereof, in the finances of the federal government of the United States of America. Under current law and policy, and looming demographic trends, the debt/GDP ratio is projected to mushroom in coming years, and so high that a growing number of observers inside and outside government question whether we really keep going on like this.

Last year, the word "unsustainable" appeared 15 times in the report. Will the number of references go up, down, or stay about the same this year?

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