While consumers take steps to rein in their own debt levels and shore up their savings, the U.S. continues wending its way on the path to profligate spending, as if there's no tomorrow. The media have brought to our attention that the national debt recently passed the $13 trillion threshold. But David Walker, who served as comptroller general and head of the U.S. Government Accountability Office from 1998 to 2008, puts the public tab at $62.3 trillion, counting the unfunded promises of Social Security and Medicare.
If Americans were to step up to the plate in a collective effort to eradicate this debt, guess how much we'd have to cough up?
Let's see, that will be (cha-ching!) $201,000 per person, please! Or $500,000 per household. Got an extra half-million dollars to bail out the USA? Me neither.
Walker is the featured interview in the current issue of the Journal of Financial Planning. His message to financial planners is they have a "disproportionate obligation to be informed and involved with regard to our nation's financial condition and fiscal outlook." He says their duty is to increase awareness among their clients, and help them "understand that the federal government has overpromised and underdelivered."
Consequently, people like you and me must do everything in our power to save, invest our money and preserve our assets so that we can provide for our own future retirement security. That is the essence of his message.
But the author of "Comeback America: Turning the Country Around and Restoring Fiscal Responsibility" makes some other interesting points as well. He calls for the restoration of the statutory budget controls that were in place from 1990 to 2002, which kept spending in line with revenues. "We need, frankly, tougher controls than we had from 1990 to 2002, because our situation is worse and we're closer to approaching a fiscal cliff," he says in the article.
Walker played a starring role in "I.O.U.S.A.," a documentary film about the effects of the U.S. deficit on our country. The sequel, "I.O.U.S.A. Solutions," came out in April. I haven't seen it yet, but based on this interview, I'm guessing that he's calling for major reforms in Social Security, health care and taxes. His book covers "policy, operational and needed political reforms in order to help revitalize our democracy and frankly make it a more representative democracy."
Maybe we need to let our elected officials know that we are doing our part to keep our fiscal houses in order, and that we expect them to do their part to tackle this problematic national debt that affects us all.