GAO Wants Bush Administration to Wake Up to Economic Problems

Forget those ill-fated “listening tours” from Karen Hughes. The man who sued Dick Cheney for information about his so-called energy task force is on a wake-up tour.

For the ninth straight year, the GAO said it couldn’t certify the government’s financial statements.

David Walker, 54, U.S. comptroller general and head of the Government Accounting Office, sees nothing but gray skies ahead for the American economy. And while his doomsday scenario might be too centered on entitlements, he makes some important points.

Earlier this month, he released the GAO’s annual statement on the accounting of the U.S. government. For the ninth straight year, the GAO said it couldn’t certify the government’s financial statements. For the second year, Walker emphasized the nation’s long-term financial risk.

He wrote that the nation is $46 trillion in debt, and social insurance promises and fiscal exposures were four times the current gross domestic product as baby boomers approach 2008, when they begin to become eligible for early retirement.

Walker, who has switched back and forth between the two major parties, was a Republican when Pres. Clinton accepted his nomination to the 15-year GAO post.

…as the choice of the Republican-led Senate in 1998, Walker was seen as a GOP man. Few accuse him of that now.

The position, created by Congress in 1921, is a 15-year appointment, and the comptroller general cannot be removed except by impeachment.

That fact came in handy in 2002, when Walker felt he had no choice but to sue Dick Cheney in the case later appealed to the Supreme Court.

…he sued Cheney for information about lobbyists the vice president’s secretive energy task force consulted when forming a national energy strategy. It was the first lawsuit ever by the GAO, and it angered some Republicans.

Cheney claimed executive privilege and won in federal court. But the case still reverberates because it was the first big showdown over a broad expansion by this White House of executive power, which includes the recently revealed authorization by President Bush of spying on U.S. citizens without a warrant.

“Had we not done that, it was pretty clear to me we would have faced a broad-based record access problem elsewhere in the administration. … The good news,” Walker said, “is that we haven’t had to issue another demand letter since then. People know we’re serious.”

Walker’s basic message — that you can’t run up a deficit forever — is sound. The larger problems — that the insurance companies and pharmaceuticals are bleeding health care spending dry — he overlooks.

Despite the focus of the Bush administration on reforming Social Security, Walker argues the much bigger and tougher financial dilemma related to the aging population is health care.

“David Certner, director of federal affairs at AARP, disagrees with Walker’s focus on entitlement cuts, arguing the challenge is to lower the actual cost of medical care rather than cut government spending on it. But he said Walker’s bluntness is valuable.


  • S
    December 26, 2005 - 4:12 pm | Permalink

    This article should be translated into English-without-argot for those readers who do not speak financialese but would like to extract a little more than the vague gist!

  • robin phillians
    December 26, 2005 - 4:13 pm | Permalink

    That is what I’ve been saying for years now. Bush’s lack of concern for the economy i.e, tax cuts for the rich,etc. fighting a war, without sacrifice of any kind and spending like a drunken sailor is leading this country in a downward path, with the likes that havent been seen since the depression. But then again,maybe thats what he has in mind. To rewrite a constitution is his own image.After all, they have been going after the “new deal” of Roosevelts since the beginning

  • December 26, 2005 - 4:47 pm | Permalink

    The U.S. Census Bureau has all the stats one needs to prove beyond any reasonable doubt the utter failure of “trickle down” economics. The years immediately following WWII were, arguably, the most egalitarian in our history. The years following Ronald Reagan’s infamous tax cut of 1982 ushered in an era in which only the affluent have prospered. It’s bad enough that only the upper quintile prospered until well into Clinton’s second term, but what compounds this partisan sin is the fact that of the upper quintile, the elite 1 percent of the population increased their wealth exponentialism. If you can find the bar charts that were used in Dr. Weinberg’s various presentations, it will be made clear in blue and white. Because of misguided or incompetent GOP policies, America has become a land of a few elite “haves” and an increasinly impoverished “have nots”. The middle class is living on credit cards.

  • Stephen Kriz
    December 26, 2005 - 5:07 pm | Permalink


    Good points all. The recklessness of the Bush administration, and their unwillingness to acknowledge the consequences of their actions concerning so many things, will burden this country for many years to come. Trickle down economics clearly is a failure, even by Bush’s own measures. The GOP predicted that Bush’s tax cuts would produce 10 million new jobs. They haven’t come close. But, like an addict that can’t admit they have a problem, they keep cutting taxes. It is pathetic to watch.

    What was that nonsense about “grown-ups” taking over, after the Clinton administration? What a sad lie…

    Thanks for the astute comments.

    Steve Kriz

  • December 26, 2005 - 6:04 pm | Permalink

    Cheney claimed executive privilege?

    Umm, but recently Cheney claimed (over travel expenses) that his office was NOT part of the executive. I happen to agree with him. The only role assigned by the Constitution to the VP (except when he is acting as President) is as President of the Senate. That puts him firmly in the congressional branch.

    Which means he was wrong (and possibly perjuring himself) when he claimed executive privilege.

  • gonnuts
    December 26, 2005 - 6:12 pm | Permalink

    Long ago, a physics professor friend of mine tried to explain simply what’s coming in our lifetime relating to what is was he taught.

    He said:”You keep on taking and taking, without ever giving something back, you create a void. Once that void becomes a point of such imbalance it takes over – all at once.” Like sucking the air out of a barrel eventually that barrel implodes as it would explode if you did the opposite. Or if the poles of the Earth would in the blink of an eyes suddenly switch.

    Anyway, we’ve near reached critical mass. Not just from the economic bubble that’s about to burst, or from the fascism that has taken hold, economic collapse will hasten their cause, to the near collapse of basic affordable services, every things about to implode and explode. And when this one hits it’s going to set a new standard for depressions. This next Great Depression will make like calling Hurricane Katrina a thunderstorm.

    Me, I’m glad I’m old.

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