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CRISIS WARNINGS IN 2007 BY US COMPTROLLER GENERAL

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GAO

United States Government Accountability Office

TESTIMONY BEFORE THE COMMITTEE ON BUDGET, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

Statement of David M. Walker, Comptroller General of the United States  

 July 25, 2007



EXTRACT

“Long-term fiscal simulations by GAO, CBO, and others all show that despite some modest improvement in near-term deficits, we face large and growing structural deficits driven primarily by rising health care costs and known demographic trends. In fact, the long-term fiscal challenge is largely a health care challenge. Although Social Security is important because of its size, the real driver is health care spending. It is both large and projected to grow more rapidly in the future.

GAO’s current long-term simulations show ever-larger deficits resulting in a federal debt burden that ultimately spirals out of control… (There are) two alternative fiscal paths. The first is “Baseline extended,” which extends the CBO’s baseline estimates beyond the 10-year projection period, and the second is an alternative based on recent trends and policy preferences. Our alternative scenario assumes action to return to and remain at historical levels of revenue and reflects somewhat higher discretionary spending and more realistic Medicare estimates for physician payments than does the baseline extended scenario. Although the timing of deficits and the resulting debt build up varies depending on the assumptions used, both simulations show that we are on an unsustainable fiscal path.

The bottom line is that the nation’s longer-term fiscal outlook is daunting under any realistic policy scenario or assumptions. Continuing on this unsustainable fiscal path will gradually erode, if not suddenly damage, our economy, our standard of living, and ultimately our national security. Our current path also increasingly will constrain our ability to address emerging and unexpected budgetary needs and increase the burdens that will be faced by future generations.”

"If the American people understand that there is no magic bullet—if they understand that

            • we cannot grow our way out this problem;

            • eliminating earmarks will not solve the problem;

            • wiping out fraud, waste and abuse will not solve the problem;

            • ending the “Global War on Terrorism”, exiting from Iraq, or cutting way back on defense will not solve the problem; and

            • letting the recent tax cuts expire will not solve this problem;

 

then they can engage with you in a discussion about what government should do; how it should do it; and how we should pay for it without unduly mortgaging the future of our country, children, and grandchildren. This is a great nation, probably the greatest in history. We have faced many challenges in the past and we have met them. It is a mistake to underestimate the commitment of the American people to their country, children, and grandchildren; to underestimate their willingness and ability to hear the truth and support the decisions necessary to deal with this challenge. We owe it to our country, children and grandchildren to address our fiscal and other key sustainability challenges. The clock is ticking and time is working against us. The time for action is now." 

CLICK HERE TO READ FULL TEXT OF TESTIMONY

AMERICA'S FINANCIAL FUTURE
Beginning in September 2005, former Comptroller General David M. Walker, along with representatives from groups across the ideological spectrum, began participating in a series of nationwide town hall-style forums to bring attention to the mounting federal debt as well the challenges posed by emerging demographic and economic trends. Utilizing in part long-term fiscal projections and other materials from the GAO, the goal of the Tour is to state the facts about America’s finances, encourage citizen involvement, and promote legislative and other reforms by federal, state, and local officials.


EXTRACT from GAO annual report on US Financial Statements

"as of September 30, 2008, the federal government did not maintain effective internal controls over financial reporting and compliance with significant laws and regulations due to numerous material weaknesses. Moreover, financial management system problems continue to hinder federal agency accountability. The federal government still has a long way to go, but over the years, progress has been made in improving federal financial management. For example, audit results for many federal agencies have improved; federal financial system requirements have been developed; and accounting and reporting standards have continued to evolve to provide greater transparency and accountability over the federal government's operations, financial condition, and fiscal outlook. In addition, the federal government issued a summary financial report which is intended to make the information in the Financial Report of the U.S. Government more understandable and accessible to a broader audience. The federal government's response to the financial markets crisis and economic downturn has created new federal accountability, financial reporting, and debt management challenges. Such challenges will require utmost attention to ensure (1) that sufficient internal controls and transparency are established and maintained for all market stabilization and economic recovery initiatives; (2) that all related financial transactions are reported on time, accurately, and completely; and (3) these initiatives are effectively and efficiently financed. Moreover, while policymakers are currently understandably focused on efforts directed toward market stabilization and economic growth, once stability in financial markets and the economic downturn are addressed, attention will have to be turned with the same level of intensity to the serious longer-term challenges of addressing the federal government's large and growing structural deficits and debt. Finally, the federal government should consider the need for further revisions to the current federal financial reporting model to recognize its unique needs. A broad reconsideration of issues, such as the kind of information that may be relevant and useful for a sovereign nation, could lead to reporting enhancements that might help provide the Congress and the President with more useful financial information to deliberate and monitor strategies to address the nation's long-term fiscal challenges."


GAO-09-805T July 8, 2009

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Whenever you find you are on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect

                     --- Mark Twain

We have never observed a great civilization with a population as old as the United States will have in the twenty-first century; we have never observed a great civilization that is as secular as we are apparently going to become; and we have had only half a century of experience with advanced welfare states...Charles Murray

Kella
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