Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Stopping in Pittsburgh, former US comptroller general urges reducing deficits - Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Stopping in Pittsburgh, former U.S. comptroller general urges reducing deficits

There's better than a 50-50 chance that Congress and the next U.S. president will negotiate a solution in 2013 to the more than $70 trillion burden from budget deficits and unfunded Social Security and Medicare liabilities, former U.S. Comptroller General David M. Walker told members of the Pittsburgh Rotary Club today.

Mr. Walker, who served in the Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush administrations, said those odds could improve or deteriorate based on the outcome of the November elections and the next president's ability to lead.

"If the president does not lead, we're in trouble because Congress is dysfunctional," Mr. Walker said in a speech at the Omni William Penn Hotel, Downtown.

He said neither President Barack Obama, a Democrat seeking reelection, nor Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has laid out a credible, comprehensive plan for addressing a fiscal burden that he estimates is growing $10 million a minute or $14.4 billion a day.

The $16 trillion federal budget deficit "low balls the problem" because it excludes the burden of Social Security and Medicare costs, he said.

"The problem is much bigger than politicians are willing to admit," he said.

Mr. Walker is visiting Pittsburgh as part of a 20-city "$10 million a minute" bus tour to promote awareness of the fiscal crisis and to offer solutions. The tour is sponsored by the Comeback America Initiative, a Bridgeport, Conn., organization that promotes government fiscal responsibility.

The Pittsburgh stop includes a public event at Carnegie Mellon University's Porter Hall from 5 to 7 p.m. today.

Mr. Walker called for budget cuts and increased revenue, including making sure more lower income people pay taxes and raising the effective tax rate -- the percentage of income paid in taxes after deductions are taken -- for higher income taxpayers.

"We cannot solve this problem without more revenue," he said.

He said failure to address the budget deficit and unfunded Social Security and Medicare liabilities will lead to a fiscal crisis in two or three years.

The only European nation in worse fiscal shape than the United States is Greece, he said.

"We're not as great as we think we are," he said. "We must make tough choices. We need to make them starting in 2013."

Len Boselovic: lboselovic@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1941.

First published on September 12, 2012 at 2:51 pm

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