Former Comptroller General Cites $53 Trillion Shortfall: ‘No One Will Bail Out America'

By Matthew Hadro | October 9, 2008 | 7:18 PM EDT

( – The United States faces a $53 trillion shortfall in the funds needed to cover promised entitlments, including Medicare and Social Security benefits, and neither Congress nor the presidential candidates are doing anything about it, former Comptroller General David Walker warned this week.

“We need leadership, not lag-ship,” Walker said. “No one is going to bail out America.”
In a briefing at the National Press Club on Wednesday, Walker, concerned about the $700 billion bailout of the financial sector, sounded an alarm that the federal budget deficit has already exceeded $400 billion.
Worse, if the U.S. isn’t careful, Walker said “increasing entitlement benefits” – with unfunded liabilities of Social Security and Medicare now estimated at $53 trillion--could trigger a tsunami of debt--and whopping tax increases--could drown our economic future.
An unfunded liability is the amount that taxes would have to be raised to cover the shortfall between what current payroll taxes cover and what future payouts to recipients will require.

“The federal government’s finances have been out of control,” Walker, now the president and CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, told reporters.
Neither Congress nor the presidential candidates “are doing anything to address America’s real economic woes,” he said.
Congress, he added, “is broken, but so are other branches, as well.”
Walker blamed our economic woes in part on “career politicians” who, he said, “do not want to lose their job, so (they) take few to no risks.”
Even though “good questions” about the nation’s financial situation were asked at Tuesday night’s presidential debate, Walker also said “neither candidate” offered sufficient answers or “showed how they would implement their plans to (reform) Social Security and Medicare.”
“The next president must be willing to admit to the problems and work in a bipartisan way to find a solution,” Walker added.
The leadership deficit and the budget deficit are two of the “deficits” explored in a new documentary video created by the Peterson Foundation that Walker previewed for reporters, called “I.O.U.S.A.”
In addition, the U.S. faces a deficit in personal savings and a trade deficit – all of which are working against the nation’s economic health.
Walker, meanwhile, strongly encourages Americans to ask the presidential candidates the same questions raised in “I.O.U.S.A.”:
- What impact would their policies have on the deficits projected under the current law?
- How do the “bottom line” impacts of their individual proposals compare?
- Are the new programs, tax cuts and deficit reduction measures financed with specific and verifiable proposals to reduce spending or raise new revenue?
- What progress would their proposals make towards addressing our nation’s $53 trillion huge and deepening fiscal hole?”
Walker, who resigned as the comptroller general and head of the Government Accountability Office in March, said despite the current economic troubles facing the nation, he does not think a recession is imminent.