As the former comptroller general of the United States, David Walker knows a little about the fiscal workings of the modern federal government. For fifteen years, he served under both Republican and Democratic presidents from Reagan to Clinton to the Bushes), and had a unique opportunity to call into question the decisions that have lead to our current fiscal woes.And he doesn’t hold back. As he argues in the first few pages of his book “Comeback America,” we are a great country, but we are putting ourselves in a difficult position:
We live in a great and resilient nation. For all of our problems, the United States remains a global superpower and a beacon of liberty for people around the world. We have much to be proud of and thankful for. But I am here to tell you that if we don’t find a way to get spending under control, we will put our nation’s economy and international standing at risk and bequeath to our children a world of severely diminished opportunities.
It’s not too late. But we had better act soon.
After opening the book with describing our current fiscal problems–looking at the America of 2030 if we continue our current trajectory, examining principles from our history, and spelling out the challenges that President Obama faced, and faces, as he came into office–Walker then lays out his recommendations in each major area of federal spending in the succeeding chapters.
Walker skips right over earmarks and discretionary spending, which account for only a very small percentage of our federal budget, and goes right to the heart of the problem: entitlements, insufficient tax revenues, spending deficits, Defense Department ineffeciences, and systemic problems. Each gets a chapter that provides context, history, and recommendations.
Beyond its easy accessibility, perhaps the most important reason you should read this book is the lack of partisan taint. His approach, and recommendations, are nonpartisan, pragmatic, and worthy of consideration. He approaches the problems with one consideration–what is right for America and Americans?
A simplistic summary of his ideas, which I aim to address in greater depth in a later post, is that he calls for not only the reform of entitlements, review and oversight of inefficiencies in several–large–areas of government, and the reform of the tax code, but also for changes in our very elective processes and to the constitution. It isn’t enough to just change policies–we also need to change the systemic problems with how we got here and make it difficult to get here again.
In the end, Walker makes a compelling case for, in his words, not a “small government or a big government[,]” but an effective government–one that is fiscally responsible, focuses on the future, and looks out for the collective best interest of America and Americans rather than the narrow agendas of various special interests.
As one friend of mine has been known to observe–both parties are glad to spend, as long as it on the program that benefits its constituency. The right will spend on national security, and the left will spend on social programs. Both are spending, just not on the same thing. Indeed, fiscal responsibility is a claim that neither elected Democrats nor Republicans can claim–at least not with any measure of integrity.
Despite the current difficulties, exacerbated by the pop of the housing bubble and the subsequent recession, America can “comeback.” David Walker’s book, already over a year and a half old, is full of great ideas and suggestions to see that that happens. I recommend you pick up a copy and read it soon. You might find yourself asking different questions of your elected representatives than their position on immigration.
As I noted earlier, look for a later post on Walker’s specific policy recommendations.