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Walker: Keeping Score Of Debt Key Solution For Federal Government

January 18th, 2017 · 22 Comments · News and Events

Bridgeport resident David Walker, former U.S. Comptroller General, writes in a commentary that also appears in the Washington Times that “The federal government’s ultimate fiscal goal should be to reduce and stabilize debt/GDP at a reasonable and sustainable level …”

The United States is a great nation but we face many serious challenges that need to be addressed. Two key ones relate to the need to ensure fiscal sustainability and achieve government transformation. As a recognized expert in these areas, I have several thoughts that I believe President-Elect Trump needs to consider.

With regard to fiscal sustainability, the incoming Trump Administration is understandably focused on how to grow the economy and create more job opportunities in the U.S. Many of President-Elect Trump’s announced top priorities have this goal in mind (e.g., regulatory relief, tax reform, infrastructure investment, trade policy, immigration reform). There is no question that additional economic growth will help increase federal revenues; however, growth alone will not ensure fiscal sustainability over time. Basic math, the current composition of the federal budget, and known demographic trends dictate that efforts need to be made to significantly reduce projected federal spending over time as compared to the baseline, especially in connection with health care costs. While President-elect Trump has not publicly acknowledged it, this will eventually require a fundamental review and reassessment of all major mandatory spending programs, including Social Security and Medicare. Mandatory spending programs currently comprise about 70% of the federal budget and are growing faster than the overall budget. Social Security and Medicare need to be made solvent, sustainable and secure in a fiscally responsible manner.

How you keep score matters, including in connection with fiscal affairs. It’s time to move beyond annual deficit and aggregate debt level metrics. The federal government’s ultimate fiscal goal should be to reduce and stabilize debt/GDP at a reasonable and sustainable level (e.g., 60%) by a date certain (e.g., 2035). As a result, current budget and fiscal rules should be revised to focus on this debt/GDP approach rather than on annual or 10-year projected deficits and the current debt ceiling limit. By focusing on debt/GDP, we will be able to recognize the actual results of both our pro-growth strategies and fiscal responsibility efforts.

With regard to government transformation, the federal government is operating based largely on organizational models and human capital practices that date from the 1950s. It’s time to review and reassess what the federal government does, how it does business and who does its business. For example, many federal entities, including DOD, have become bloated, overlapping and inefficient bureaucracies that need to be restructured, streamlined and modernized. Shockingly, despite being in business as a Republic since 1789, the U.S. Government still lacks a strategic framework that is future focused, outcomes oriented and resource constrained. OMB should develop such a framework, including how best to address the systemic operational challenges noted above, on behalf of the President and in partnership with key leaders in government and outside experts.

Effectively addressing the above challenges will require having an adequate number of political and career executives with the right backgrounds, including change management and federal government experience, as well as the ability and commitment to make real change happen. They will need help from qualified and independent contractors to figure out what needs to done and to implement needed changes. These transformation efforts should be facilitated by a renewed Presidential Reorganization Authority, a streamlined and expedited Congressional consideration process, and a modernized human capital system (e.g., classification, compensation, hiring, firing, transfer and layoff rules). The modernized human capital system should focus primarily on skills, knowledge and performance rather than length of service. At the same time, it is critically important to retain appropriate protections against discrimination and political retribution.

As someone who has led major transformation efforts in all three sectors of the economy, I know first-hand that achieving the needed changes in government is much tougher than in the private or non-profit sectors. President-Elect Trump has nominated some very successful people to-date; however, very few of them appear to have direct transformation or change management experience in the federal government. Hopefully, he will appoint highly qualified Deputies and other key staff that can help him, his Cabinet, and other agency heads make the needed changes a reality. While this effort needs to start soon, it will take years to fully complete.

In the November elections, the American people clearly expressed their dissatisfaction with the status quo and a desire for real change in Washington. The new Trump Administration and Congress must work together to solve large known and growing problems, including in connection with fiscal sustainability and government transformation issues. It will take patience, persistence, perseverance and pain before we will prevail, but prevail we must, and if we work together, we will prevail!

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22 Comments so far ↓

  • Ron Mackey

    Is this an open letter for a position in the Trump administration?

  • John Marshall Lee

    Ron, as you comprehend but find it more fun to challenge, it is a letter from a Bridgeport citizen and taxpayer who has volunteered his time to the City, but was never used despite his ability and expertise. (Now there may be more than a handful of taxpayer-citizens with genuine residence addresses in Bridgeport who have been ignored for voluntary public service.) However, how many folks in Bridgeport can prepare a letter to the Washington Times on a national subject of such import and HAVE THAT LETTER PUBLISHED?

    Walker and a handful of others appealed to City leadership to form a temporary task force to provide advice to the City. There was some support for it among G2 advisers but the Mayor turned his back on the concept.

    No official response. Not even a thank you for your offer. Just a disrespectful failure to continue the dialogue and it doesn’t make news because a non-response does not make official ripples. Chances were the task force work would have been complete by now, simultaneous with the news from the about to be released Comprehensive Annual Financial Report-2016 in which Ganim2 dealt with the “Finch fiscal mess.” Let’s see what the auditor has to tell us. Time will tell.

    • Ron Mackey

      JML, my comment was for real, that is how people in Trump’s own team would reach him, they say something publicly that they wanted Trump to hear because he wouldn’t hear them when they spoke to him. Dave was talking about Trump Administration and a number of the items he is talking about are the things he spoke about in his 60 Minutes interview.
      youtu.be/U19_OkPRggE

      • John Marshall Lee

        Yes Ron, I also have found Walker to have a consistent message. His message persists through good times and less good financial periods. If you cast an eye at gold values you can see in the past two weeks those values have risen more than 8%. I offer no specific reason for the current jump but there are matters worldwide that are having to adjust and international flows of money are one of them. One of my favorite phrases from 50 years of working with financial products is: “The value of money is its availability in a time of need.” Chicago, Detroit, the Dallas Pension plan in the news, are signs of problems without easy solutions. A guy like Walker has the knowledge and experience, were it to be called upon, to prescribe an antidote to our sickness. As our sickness worsens through lack of address or attention, stronger medicines will be required that have a serious effect on all of us. Can we stand the medicine now? Why don’t we call in the financial doctors? Time will tell.

        • Ron Mackey

          John, you said, “A guy like Walker has the knowledge and experience, were it to be called upon, to prescribe an antidote to our sickness.” Well John, how come Mike Pence, the elected Vice President has not brought in David Walker to help drain the swamp?

          • John Marshall Lee

            If you are interested, why don’t you ask Mike Pence that question rather than leave any other impression?
            My priority question, and it might well be yours too, is why Ganim2 shut out the idea of a short-term fiscal task force that could have met, deliberated and provided an informed community response going forward. What was Joe afraid of? If he wanted no part of this, he could have shut down Rep. Stafstrom and some on his personal staff early on, but he did not. He was not there, invisible, no fingerprints, away, residing where? Trust me? How does one verify? Is that the question? Time will tell.

  • Jeff Kohut

    We need real domestic-based GDP growth to grow ourselves out of our unsustainable debt. We need to be prudent in our spending with respect to our social safety net and military profligacy/war waste, but what we need more than anything is economic policy that catalyzes and sustains the American wealth creation that matches consumption and debt-reduction needs.

    We need to return to a policy of a net producer, wealth-creating nation, vs. a net consumption nation (economy).

    • Lisa Parziale

      While I don’t write or articulate with the level of intelligence of some, I’ll say simply, “We all missed the boat when Ganim dissed a man of Dave Walker’s stature, experience and governmental knowledge.” He wanted nothing in return for sharing his help and assistance, but when you have a paranoid, insecure mayor, this is what happens. Just before the State elections I warned Steve Stafstrom and Danny Roach were throwing a bone to get over the elections. I further predicted they would go dark after that, and they did.

  • Ron Mackey

    Marshall, “The United States is a great nation but we face many serious challenges that need to be addressed. Two key ones relate to the need to ensure fiscal sustainability and achieve government transformation. As a recognized expert in these areas, I have several thoughts that I believe President-Elect Trump needs to consider.” John, this is what David Walker said, so it’s not up to me to reach out to Mike Pence plus Dave knows him and I don’t. You keep challenging me every time I mention anything about Dave Walker. I have not said anything negative on this topic about Dave Walker, Dave is the person who is talking national problems that affect America and all I did was give Ronald Mackey’s opinion. Maybe you should address what Dave wrote about.

    • John Marshall Lee

      Ron,
      My impression is you challenge Walker’s words whenever he writes. Did you think he wrote to OIB to secure a position with the Trump administration? Seriously?
      But you could not let it alone and took a stab at humor? And I challenged you and our dialogue has moved far from the Bridgeport TRUTH that there are people of integrity, ability, experience and good will who are willing to serve the public in ways the public needs. And they are not heard at this moment. Find that funny? Time will tell.

      • Ron Mackey

        JML, I was clear what I said earlier, Ron Mackey // Jan 18, 2017 at 3:09 pm

        John, Kellyanne Conway is the first woman to run a Republican Presidential campaign and at times she had to be on MSNBC on Morning Joe like others who had to write editorials in order to get Donald Trump attention because at times Trump wouldn’t listen to them when they told him face to face.

        John, I added David Walker’s 60 Minutes interview to show what the national problems still are and by Walker running for Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut that somebody would pick up on what Dave Walker is talking about. It would be better if Dave Walker could first change the national outlook. John, try reading what someone is saying sometimes instead of just assuming.

  • John Marshall Lee

    Ron, this is what you wrote as the first response to this thread:
    “Jan 18, 2017 at 2:01 pm
    Is this a open letter for a position in the Trump administration?”

    Didn’t you ask that simple question? And I have responded to your exact words.
    Now you are expanding your explanation (or defense), aren’t you? And your meaning? Instead of suggesting this was a Walker letter of application for employment, why did you not think of it as an opportunity he pursued to frame the public problem on a national level? Perhaps you would have had no problem if the Times published it and he did not submit it to OIB as well. Just speculating. Time will tell.

  • Tom White

    Lennie,
    Is it true your next book is a collection of OIB comments by Ron Mackey and Donald Day to be titled All Things Black? Just a rumor.

    • Ron Mackey

      The book will be dedicated to Tom White, titled “Black Teaching White.”

    • Donald Day

      No Tom, the book is titled,”Why does being Black in America still hurt after 400 years?” I know it’s a little long, but what the hell.

      • John Marshall Lee

        Respectfully, there is much left out of history books that is of import in shaping our lives in community today. If we are lifetime learners, willing to open our ears when others relate their stories to us, we may slowly come to a conclusion there are universal life experiences “we” or members of our families have shared including violence, victimization, injustices, prejudice, etc. Nothing to celebrate, but some have had to endure more than their share, it would seem. Tell the stories at this time of year about Juneteenth in 1865, about post-Civil War Reconstruction, and how the 1876 Tilden-Hayes election (backroom settlement of Electoral College breakdown) made way for the removal of Federal troops, the enforcing power of emancipation and made way for Jim Crow activity in the US. History is for all to learn, to consider, and to apply lessons to where we find ourselves to be today, yes? Time will tell.

        • Ron Mackey

          John Marshall Lee, at what point did blacks become equal to whites in America?

          • John Marshall Lee

            Why don’t you share the answer with us, Ron? Free under American laws and documents that understood slavery and provided for it, while there were still black ‘freemen’?
            Fill the space and share the story of race in America. Help me, and others willing to listen, to learn a more complete story. Time will tell.

  • Ron Mackey

    John, there’s not enough interest and time for me to answer, plus you are a member of the NAACP, you can answer the question. February is Black History Month so hopefully it will be addressed then. JML, here is just one measurement that doesn’t really answer the question.

    Time Magazine
    Report: Black Americans Are 72% Equal to Whites
    Tessa Berenson @
    March 19, 2015
    National Urban League CEO Marc Morial

    time.com/3747800/state-of-black-america-report/

    • John Marshall Lee

      It is your time to answer, to share the story you know better than a man such as me who has had both “white privilege” and “male privilege” status. To grow beyond privilege, to understand what others face daily in their own lives is part of growing and wholly living with your physical and spiritual faculties.
      Teach! That is an invitation I extend to you. Teaching is neither simple nor easy, but it is necessary. And you cannot dismiss this invitation with: “no interest” or “not enough time.” You are breathing and intelligent, my friend. Speak, and find material your audience does not know, but should. Move them to follow your words and ultimately footsteps. You have that power, if you will use it and expect it will do good.
      By the way NAACP membership can be achieved with a $30 fee and a form. Does that do any teaching? Time will tell.

  • Lisa Parziale

    JML in my interactions with you I feel from you a sincere sense of the man you are inside and out. You genuinely hold no bias or prejudice against anyone. But you are part of a minority, blessed with a fair mind, heart and soul. I see and feel prejudice, nonacceptance and intolerance from too many around me; if I must have them in my life I keep them at bay and never engage when possible. My point is prejudice and injustice towards any person or group who don’t fit into what some people consider the norm is very alive and still thriving. You read OIB on a regular basis, take the time to read between the lines of what some bloggers say and how they say it, it’s right in our faces despite their attempts at hiding it.

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