Former comptroller sees debt as deadly
Former US Comptroller David Walker spoke Friday night at Saint Anselm College about the US tax code and government entitlement system. (Simon Rios/Union Leader Correspondent)
GOFFSTOWN — Former U.S. Comptroller David Walker addressed a gathering at St. Anselm College Friday evening, rolling his $10 Million a Minute bus tour into the Granite State.
But the 100-plus audience was packed with protestors, who outnumbered those who had come to take in Walker's critique of the U.S. tax code and government entitlement system.
Mary Heslin, a volunteer with N.H. Citizens Alliance, was one of the many protestors present with placards expressing opposition to tampering with Social Security and Medicare.
“The deficit was not caused by Social Security,” Heslin said, “and it can't be solved by cutting Social Security.”
Heslin added that Social Security has a $2.7 trillion surplus and has nothing to do with the national deficit.
Walker, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton and served for 10 years as comptroller, was joined by a debt clock that went to $70 trillion, based on a 75-year projection.
But there was a note of hope to his appearance.
“If we end up coming up with a comprehensive solution that involves both spending reduction and revenue increases, and a variety of other factors, (the debt) can come down tens of trillions of dollars,” Walker said.
He said neither revenue nor debt are to be examined alone. Rather, “how much debt do we have as a percentage of the economy?” he said.
Walker called for reaching a reasonable debt to gross domestic product rate through spending cuts and revenue increases, something he said neither party is willing to accept.
Walker heads the Comeback America Initiative and is touring the country in a giant bus advertising the project's web site, 10millionaminute.com. The 10 million a minute refers to how fast the national debt is rising. The national debt exceeeded $16 trillion earlier this week.
The tour is supported by several political figures, including two former Republican National Committee chairs, two former Democratic National Committee chairs and two former Federal Reserve chairs, in addition to former N.H. Sen. Judd Gregg and former N.H. Gov. John Sununu.
Walker argued that at some level of income, people shouldn't have to pay income taxes.
But he added that with 40 to 46 percent of working-age people not paying any income taxes — as is the case now — the U.S. economy and democracy are threatened.
Then there's the wealthy.
“The one percent, or let's talk about the people making over a million, the effective income tax rate for those people is 18.9 percent,” he said. “Now how the heck can that be? Because the top tax rate is 35.”
This is because these earners benefit from reductions, exemptions, credits and exclusions, Walker said, adding that people who make money in dividends and investment income are taxed at 15 percent.
“One of the things we have to recognize is we need more revenues,” he said. “We've got to have more people paying something on a progressive system, and we've got to increase what we're getting from the wealthy.”
But Walker emphasized that doing so should not involve the current tax system, which he called overly-complex and outdated.
“You want to transform that,” he said. “You got to reduce your spending, and you got to have more revenues.”
Walker said reform must meet six criteria: It must be pro-growth, socially equitable, culturally acceptable, mathematically accurate, politically feasible and find bipartisan support.
“We've got a ticking time bomb,” he said. “And the fuse is lit and we got to do something. And in my view, we've got to make some meaningful progress in 2013, phased in over many years, or else we could have a debt crisis here.”
Walker warned that if that happened, there wouldn't be a recession, but a depression.
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