Dec 19, 2007

Do Your Kids Have $175,000 Just Laying Around?

I wish I were as eloquent as Scott Horton, who produced an excellent piece on his “No Comment” blog yesterday regarding the fiscal malaise—or catastrophe perhaps is not too strong a word to use—that our country is in with regard to its fiscal situation. The piece is entitled “Obligations Ignored.” I urge you all to read it and ponder it through the Holidays and then when you start working to pay off your holiday expenditures.

At the beginning of the piece Horton draws heavily on an article about the Comptroller General of the United States, David Walker, and a speech he made at the National Press Club. Horton includes a link to the article as well, though he presents it almost in its entirety. Two quotes from the Comptroller struck me. First of all,

“If the federal government was a private corporation and the same report came out this morning, our stock would be dropping and there would be talk about whether the company’s management and directors needed a major shake-up.”

And then,

“The federal government’s fiscal exposures totaled approximately $53 trillion as of September 30, 2007, up more than $2 trillion from September 30, 2006, and an increase of more than $32 trillion from about $20 trillion as of September 30, 2000,” Walker said. “This translates into a current burden of about $175,000 per American or approximately $455,000 per American household.

If I have any criticism, it's that Horton does not point out the obvious about the pattern of keeping the Government Accounting office from expressing a qualified opinion: the pattern started, according to the article, eleven years ago, meaning that it includes the last term of the Clinton Administration. Although everyone agrees that Clinton succeeded in decreasing the deficits and lowering the overall debt, it is disheartening to find the pattern of less transparency starting there.

Horton is not the first to point out the terrible shape of the fiscal legacy we are leaving our children and grand children, but he is the most eloquent I have read so far. Especially damning, I think, are his comments on the failure of the press to write about the matter. You would think that a speech to the National Press Club would produce headlines news.

I think Horton is spot on, and I welcome your responses to this.

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