A failure of leadership is threatening to send the United States over a “fiscal cliff” of debt that’s growing by $10 million a minute, former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker said Thursday.
Walker faulted the last two presidents and members of Congress for lacking the courage to enact the combination of spending cuts and revenue increases necessary to begin curbing an exploding federal debt load that has reached $16 trillion.
During a breakfast speech at the Midtown Atlanta offices of King & Spalding LLP, Walker criticized former President George W. Bush for pushing through a second round of tax cuts the country couldn’t afford in 2003 and waging a war with Iraq on credit.
President Barack Obama jammed a health-care reform law through Congress in 2010 that will cost $12 trillion more than advertised, Walker said.
“The president of the United States needs to show extraordinary leadership and use the bully platform to go directly to the American people … and show the way forward,” Walker said. “Everything has to be on the table.”
Walker and former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia, who introduced Walker, called for Congress to approve a “grand bargain” in 2013 with the next president – whether it’s still Obama or Republican nominee Mitt Romney ¬– based on the recommendations of a deficit reduction commission Obama appointed two years ago but then failed to embrace.
“If the two parties do not get together, instead of kicking the can down the road … we will not solve the problem,” said Nunn, who serves as co-chairman of The Concord Coalition, a Washington, D.C.-based policy group that advocates for deficit reduction.
Walker saved his sharpest comments for Congress. He suggested that lawmakers stop taking the lengthy breaks they have grown accustomed to until a deficit reduction deal is in place and that they not be paid until they pass an annual budget, something that hasn’t happened in three years.
“These people need to be held accountable for their failure to do the job,” he said.
Walker was in Atlanta on a nationwide bus tour aimed at making sure the economy, jobs and fiscal responsibility are key issues during the current campaigns.