David M. Walker, former Comptroller General of the United States, visited the Denver Auditor's Office two years ago on a swing through Colorado. Walker talked to the Internal Audit Section of the office. He has, since last year, served as the President and CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. The foundation tries to alert Americans to the looming crisis of our growing debt.
I was pleased to hear Mr. Walker again at the Fiscal Wake-Up Tour at the University of Denver last Thursday evening, October 22. Walker hit similar haunting themes to those he brought up when he spoke to our office two years ago. Slide number one of his presentation told the whole story: "Saving Our Future Requires Tough Choices Today."
Walker pointed out three important points to a mixed crowd of older retirees and younger students. He shared with the audience that in 1968, mandatory spending programs were at 28% with discretionary programs at 66%. In 2008, mandatory programs were at 53% and discretionary spending programs were now at 39%.
The second point, always a Halloween shocker, the burden per capita of the debt in the United States: $184,000 and growing as you read this entry on my blog.
The third horrifying specter of his presentation showed how much foreign holding of US debt has risen. In 1990 our foreign debt holders was at19%. In 2009, it has risen to a ghoulish 49%. Does this scare you? No wonder the Obama White House timidly decided not welcome the Noel Winner, the Dalai Lama to the white house for tea. I guess the White House has decided "we must not offend the US banker." If Bush had done that the Democrats would have screamed like banshees and wailed like Halloween hob goblins.
I was not surprised that the audience unanimously wrote off the Senate and Congress as lacking any courage to do anything to deal with the rising debt. Like Jacob Marley's ghost, you could feel the anger rising at Congress in the DU Cable Center as the speakers continued with their description of how we got into this mess. It was clear to all that Congress will make no "tough choice" on this issue.
One older man to whom I spoke at the end of the raucous, but excellent and civil event told me: "Obama can keep the $250 he is planning to send me this year." He was dressed in a tweed suit with a warm vest. I told him that if he ever got the payment, he could endorse it and send it back to the treasury to lower the deficit. " And they'll just waste it like they did with all the money I have sent them before," he smiled back at me. He told me he was glad to see at least one elected official there at the meeting. I imagine feelings are different among older people in the neighborhood where I live in North Denver. Older people in that area are trying to decide between food and prescriptions. At the end of the meeting, Walker and the other speakers were swamped by members of the crowd. Walker told me he remembered coming to our office and I invited him to come back some time in his new roll of Paul Revere for the scary fiscal wake-up call.
Walker's final slide told the audience why he is so deeply concerned about this issue of federal debt: the slide showed a picture of the three Walker grandchildren. I hope you will look at pictures of your children and grandchildren and for their sake, get involved and focus on this "moral" issue. Type Peter G. Peterson Foundation on the search line of your Internet service or simply pgpf.org and the web pages lay out the whole sad story.