[Marxism] US comptroller all doom and gloom

Greg McDonald sabocat59 at mac.com
Tue Aug 14 08:07:21 MDT 2007

Learn from the fall of Rome, US warned

By Jeremy Grant in Washington

Published: August 14 2007 00:06 | Last updated: August 14 2007 00:06

The US government is on a ‘burning platform’ of unsustainable  
policies and practices with fiscal deficits, chronic healthcare  
underfunding, immigration and overseas military commitments  
threatening a crisis if action is not taken soon, the country’s top  
government inspector has warned.

David Walker, comptroller general of the US, issued the unusually  
downbeat assessment of his country’s future in a report that lays out  
what he called “chilling long-term simulations”.

These include “dramatic” tax rises, slashed government services and  
the large-scale dumping by foreign governments of holdings of US debt.

Drawing parallels with the end of the Roman empire, Mr Walker warned  
there were “striking similarities” between America’s current  
situation and the factors that brought down Rome, including  
“declining moral values and political civility at home, an over- 
confident and over-extended military in foreign lands and fiscal  
irresponsibility by the central government”.

“Sound familiar?” Mr Walker said. “In my view, it’s time to learn  
from history and take steps to ensure the American Republic is the  
first to stand the test of time.”

Mr Walker’s views carry weight because he is a non-partisan figure in  
charge of the Government Accountability Office, often described as  
the investigative arm of the US Congress.

While most of its studies are commissioned by legislators, about 10  
per cent – such as the one containing his latest warnings – are  
initiated by the comptroller general himself.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Walker said he had  
mentioned some of the issues before but now wanted to “turn up the  
volume”. Some of them were too sensitive for others in government to  
“have their name associated with”.

“I’m trying to sound an alarm and issue a wake-up call,” he said. “As  
comptroller general I’ve got an ability to look longer-range and take  
on issues that others may be hesitant, and in many cases may not be  
in a position, to take on.

“One of the concerns is obviously we are a great country but we face  
major sustainability challenges that we are not taking seriously  
enough,” said Mr Walker, who was appointed during the Clinton  
administration to the post, which carries a 15-year term.

The fiscal imbalance meant the US was “on a path toward an explosion  
of debt”.

“With the looming retirement of baby boomers, spiralling healthcare  
costs, plummeting savings rates and increasing reliance on foreign  
lenders, we face unprecedented fiscal risks,” said Mr Walker, a  
former senior executive at PwC auditing firm.

Current US policy on education, energy, the environment, immigration  
and Iraq also was on an “unsustainable path”.

“Our very prosperity is placing greater demands on our physical  
infrastructure. Billions of dollars will be needed to modernise  
everything from highways and airports to water and sewage systems.  
The recent bridge collapse in Minneapolis was a sobering wake-up call.”

Mr Walker said he would offer to brief the would-be presidential  
candidates next spring.

“They need to make fiscal responsibility and inter-generational  
equity one of their top priorities. If they do, I think we have a  
chance to turn this around but if they don’t, I think the risk of a  
serious crisis rises considerably”.

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