Walker’s Budget Talk Stirs Passion

David Walker
David Walker

Bridgeport resident David Walker, former comptroller general of the United States and an organizer of the community action group Citizens Working For A Better Bridgeport, certainly has collected his share of friends and foes over the years based on his candid talk about the spending habits of politicians. The left-leaning political organization Campaign for America’s Future opposes Walker’s assertion we need an infusion of sanity back into the budget-making process, be it local, state or federal spending. Dean Baker from CAF goes after the Associated Press and Walker following an interview Walker conducted with the news organization. See Baker’s rant here.

Here’s the AP’s Q&A with Walker:

The economy is slowly growing, the government’s yearly budget deficit falling. But the nation’s former top accountant doesn’t buy the idea that everything is OK.

David Walker, who for a decade ran the Government Accountability Office, the watchdog group charged with overseeing how the government spends taxpayer money, is as adamant as ever that Washington is out of touch and out of control with the nation’s finances.

Next month, he will present a major report for the nonprofit he founded, the Comeback America Initiative, whose purpose is to raise awareness about the federal government’s swelling debt. It’s a chasm that isn’t top of mind for most Americans, he knows. But Walker, 61, wants it to be.

He stocks his pockets with fake trillion-dollar bills to pass around because, as he says, “Washington spends a trillion dollars like it’s nothing.” He shows up for an interview sporting two pins on his lapel–one for the Sons of the American Revolution, and one that says CPA, in honor of his accounting vocation. “It means I’m a patriot who knows math,” he said, “and there’s not many of them.”

The government estimates the national debt at about $17 trillion, but Walker argues it is closer to $73 trillion, once all the unfunded promises for future Social Security benefits and other obligations are added in. And he envisions a bleak future if the U.S. does not stem the financial sinkhole: painful inflation, larger gaps between the rich and the poor, even threats to national security.

He rattles off proposed solutions. Among them: To cut down on health care costs, make hospitals provide more information about pricing. To salvage Social Security, index the retirement age to increases in life expectancy. To bring in more tax revenue, cut down on the exemptions and deductions that disproportionately benefit the wealthy.

QUESTION: Isn’t some of your message just scaremongering? You keep comparing the U.S. to Rome?

ANSWER: The Roman republic fell for a lot of reasons. Decline of moral values and political civility at home. Overconfidence and overextended militarily around the world. Fiscal irresponsibility by the central government and inability to control its borders. Does that sound familiar?

We tend to assume that since we’re the largest economy, the temporary sole superpower, the longest-standing democracy, that we must be No. 1 in most things. And we’re not. We’re below average on the state of our critical infrastructure. We’re below average with regard to health care outcomes, K-12 education, the amount of public resources we’re allocating to research and development. We spend over twice per person what other industrialized nations spend on health care and K-12 education, and yet we get below-average results. So the answer is not to spend more money. The answer is you’ve got to dramatically reform the system.

Q: OK. So how bad is it?

A: Washington has a false sense of security about our nation’s finances. We have an aging society. We have longer lifespans. We have relatively fewer workers supporting a growing number of retirees. In 1950, we had about 16 people working for every person drawing Social Security. Today, it’s 3 to 1, and by 2035, it’s going down to 2 to 1. Every couple will have their own retiree to take care of.

The national debt clock says we have $17 trillion in debt, but the real problem is much bigger. If you look at the total liabilities in unfunded promises that the government has made–for future Social Security, for Medicare, for military and civilian pensions–it’s $73 trillion. That’s over $250,000 per person. People have a second or third mortgage that they didn’t know they had, and no house to back it.

Now the biggest risk that we have fiscally is interest. We’re spending (more than $200 billion) a year on interest. The president’s own budget projections say we’ll be spending (almost) $800 billion on interest (per year) in 10 years. And what do you get for interest? Nothing. I say shinola. I’m from the South.

Q: How can you be so negative about the economy? There are lots of signs that things are improving. The stock market is near record highs.

A: The stock market? I quit believing in the efficiency of markets a long time ago. The stock market is not the appropriate bellwether of the state of the economy. So yeah, the stock market is at a record high but on the other hand, gaps are growing between the haves and have-nots. People on fixed income are getting killed because they can’t get a reliable return on investment. Prices are going up faster than what the government tells you because they don’t consider food and energy in the index. Last time I checked, you can’t live without food and energy.



  1. How dare they criticize and question David Walker, as we have read here on OIB, David Walker is never wrong and if you don’t believe me just ask him. I can’t wait to read David Walker’s reply to those who criticize and question him. Time will tell.

  2. yahooy, you got that right when you said, “will you understand it?” There are people who are like that, they give very confusing doubletalk when they reply. People like that hate people questioning ANYTHING they say. David Walker will never say he has ever said anything wrong.

  3. I am a Bridgeport resident and a registered Democrat who has made 1,500 documented phone calls in support of President Obama. If I could choose a winner of the White House in 2016 today, it would be Hillary Clinton.

    I am convinced David Walker is a person of the highest integrity who is a true political independent. Now if you think about that for a minute, that’s actually the harder road to follow for a person in David’s position.

    David Walker lives down the street from me and my wife. From more than two dozen exchanges I’ve had with David this year, and as a participant in the Citizens Working for a Better Bridgeport Political Action Committee, I know David to be an honest person committed to the greater good–for Bridgeport and for America … for his kids and his grandchildren. What he and economists debate about can only improve the public’s knowledge and our country’s future; the important particulars, I’ll leave to the experts.

    More specifically, for naysayers like BlackRockGuy (with whom I sometimes agree), David Walker is not a Wall Street shill or a Bush-Cheney-type privatizer. His record of achievement and pragmatism speaks for itself. I feel compelled to speak up for David out of selfish necessity: We need people like David Walker working on solving problems in Bridgeport and in Connecticut. Think about it Bridgeport, … please … Walker is highly skilled in accounting and in government best practices … are those a couple areas where we need help? You bet.

    Is David a Messiah? No. Does David thinks he is? No. In my experience, David’s the first person to admit when he doesn’t know something. Additionally, David is a gifted listener.

    As much as I’d rather ignore the political nonsense of our times, living in Bridgeport and getting to know this special place has made that impossible for me. Like me, many people I’ve spoken with here have lived in other places and have seen much higher standards of governance. That’s what it’s all about for many of us. If we don’t scare him away, we might get lucky and get David Walker to continue to help us with that here in Bridgeport.

  4. *** Bpt needs more people with the ideas and willingness to try to see them through, like Mr. Walker. Being politically independent with ideas for change is a tough road to follow in the Park City where you have lots of registered voters who do not vote! *** WELCOME TO ZOMBIELAND ***

  5. Pete,
    Thanks for you kind comments. For the record, I was the nation’s top auditor not its chief accountant. For years I have attempted to state the facts, speak the truth and offer sensible and non-partisan solutions that have the potential to gain bi-partisan support. The overwhelming majority of Americans whom I have interacted in all 50 states during the past 10 years have responded favorably to this approach. Some partisans and ideologues can’t handle the truth. They also seek to divide people rather than unite people. As a result, they are part of the problem rather than part of the solution. I suggest people stay tuned for CAI’s capstone report and my final speech as head of CAI on 9/17/13 and make up their own minds.

    1. Dave Walker, this article was written “AP Goes Off The Deep End With Deficit Scold David Walker, August 22, 2013,” about you and based on that article I agree with their position concerning you. Have you addressed this article with facts, if so would you share them with us?

      1. Ron,
        If you read the article then you would know it related to Dean Baker. Dean is a left-wing and highly partisan economist who is clearly out of the mainstream. I take his views for what they are and realize some people will never accept the facts or face the truth.

        1. Dave Walker, my question to you was “AP Goes Off The Deep End With Deficit Scold David Walker, August 22, 2013,” I am disappointed in your reply but I must say it is what I expected, name-calling is a sign of their weakness.


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