David Walker discusses his new book, Comeback America. President and CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, David Walker is a leading thinker and advocate for federal financial responsibility. He spoke with Financial Times Washington commentator Clive Crook about taxes, health care, social security, and fiscal responsibility.
“Americans have a big-government appetite and want a small-government tax payment,” said David M. Walker, president and CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, Thursday as part of the Institute’s Alma and Joseph Gildenhorn Book Series. “It won’t work,” he continued, and people who think that it will work are “delusionary and would get an ‘F’ in math!” In his new book, Comeback America: Turning the Country Around and Restoring Fiscal Responsibility, Walker argues for spending freezes, a presidential fiscal commission, higher taxes, and a total reformation of how the government conducts business.
"There is no party of fiscal responsibility," Walker told moderator Clive Crook, Washington columnist at the Financial Times, adding that several members of Congress are "profiles in cowardice." Walker was particularly struck by the congressional quagmire on health care reform: "If there is one thing that will bankrupt America," he said, "it's out-of-control health care." And Walker was quick to point out that the United States spends double per capita on health care compared with the rest of the world—with below-average results. "If health care were a house, it would be mortgaged to the hilt and headed for foreclosure."
Walker was just as hard on the tax code. He detailed his own vexing experience as a certified public accountant filling out his family’s taxes by hand and without software. "Because I want to challenge Congress to do the same," Walker exclaimed. "If congressmen had to do their own taxes, we'd have tax reform real quick."
But Walker did express a great deal of hope that financial responsibility is possible, because, as he put it, "the majority of Americans are in the sensible center." He also noted that there may finally be the political will to make big reforms because "people now know what a rainy day looks like."