David Walker offers sobering take on U.S. economy to Potomac Officers Club

The moment is eerily prescient. David Walker, then US comptroller general of the United States, being interviewed by 60 Minutes two years ago this month when he offers this sobering message: “We suffer from a fiscal cancer, it is growing within us…”

Two years later, Walker is sounding an even greater alarm. In an exclusive talk before the Potomac Officers Club the other day, Walker kept to his central message, which he’s repeated over the course of a “fiscal wake-up tour” that’s taken him to 43 states over the past three years: It’s time for America to get back to basics; there’s still a window of opportunity.

In his Potomac Officers Club talk, Walker focused on the stimulus bill. For it to be effective, he said, it needs to be “timely, targeted, temporary” — no more than a year, he added. Walker voiced concern over the scope of the stimulus, stating that less than a third is truly stimulative, according to the definition set by Congressional Budget Office. Walker also voiced concern over the Omnibus budget bill for 2009; it includes an 8.3 percent discretionary spending increase — hardly “fiscally responsible,” said Walker.

Walker tackled the health care issue as well; any expansion must first answer whether the government can meet its “$36 trillion in unfunded promises.” And Walker raised the alarm over America’s growing reliance on foreign lenders. “The biggest risk [to national security] is foreign lenders worrying if we’ll put our financial house in order,” said Walker. On the day of Walker’s talk, in fact, the Chinese prime minister, Wen Jiabao, voiced concern about the “safety” of China’s $1 trillion investment in American government debt, the world’s largest such holding.

For more information on Walker, check out the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, where Walker is CEO and president.

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