Former Comptroller Says U.S. Needs Wake-up Call
David Walker Urges Fiscal Reform in UT Dallas Business School Address
April 25, 2008
Former U.S. Comptroller David Walker delivered a somber economic message Friday at UT Dallas, but he told the audience of business leaders that there was still time for the nation to take its bitter fiscal medicine and keep a growing budget deficit from dimming its future.
| Video of David Walker's Address
Warning that “we are standing on a burning platform,” Walker said the U.S. has only five to 10 years to get its budgetary house in order or risk bequeathing a less-prosperous nation to its children and grandchildren.
He brought his “Fiscal Wake-up Tour” to campus in a program sponsored by the UT Dallas School of Management’s Institute for Excellence in Corporate Governance, co-sponsored by the CEO Netweavers organization of business leaders.
“Washington has not learned the first rule of holes,” Walker said. “When you’re in a hole, stop digging.”
The veteran of Washington’s budget wars got a warm introduction from one-time presidential contender Ross Perot, who called Walker “an economic patriot.” The Dallas business legend used an airplane analogy to describe the importance of Walker’s deficit message: “If you look at the instrument panel and you see you’re out of gas, you know you’d better land the plane.”
Walker said the unsolved Social Security problem has helped overextend U.S. spending but said that colossal Medicare responsibilities are a far greater problem. Rising health-care costs and a wave of Baby Boomers headed for retirement will squeeze the system in unimagined ways, Walker warned.
“The United States is the only country I’m aware of that’s dumb enough to write a blank check for medical care,” he said.
The nation has held sizable debt before, during wartime, but always managed to pay it down in a relatively short amount of time. “But that changed drastically in the 1970s,” Walker said. “America became addicted to debt,” Walker said.
Much of that debt is held by lenders in foreign countries, giving them undue sway over U.S. affairs, he added. Tough choices on spending and entitlement programs could turn the problem around but will require courageous choices and tough leaders.
“It’s fundamentally imprudent to wait until there’s a crisis,” he said. The window of opportunity is five to 10 years, he reminded.
Debby Bosselman, president of event sponsor CEO Netweavers, commented that Walker’s talk was especially relevant given the insecurity of the country’s current economic state.
“At this time of unprecedented economic uncertainties, it is particularly timely for our members and their colleagues to hear David Walker’s inside insights on our country’s financial realities and the impact it will have on future generations,” Bosselman said.
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