Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Economic guru tells students their future is being mortgaged at record rates

The message to hundreds of University of Denver students Oct. 22 was simple and stark: America is going broke fast, and the younger generation will suffer the most when the bills come due.

David Walker, former comptroller general of the United States and head of the General Accountability Office, joined students at the Cable Center for the Paying for America Summit, a day of frank talk about America’s fiscal condition. DU’s Institute for Public Policy Studies co-sponsored the event with the Concord Coalition political action group.

Walker, now chief executive officer of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, painted a dire picture of U.S. fiscal policy and its financial future. Walker said without change, the country cannot keep up with its spending.

“Washington is out of control,” Walker said. “When you’re in a hole, stop digging.”

The U.S. is $60 trillion in debt, including money owed to trust funds such as Social Security, he said. The country’s debt will approach 95 percent of gross domestic product by next year — $10 trillion more than the entire net worth of every single American combined, Walker said.

“Young people, let me tell you, things are being done to you, not for you,” he said. “Your future is being mortgaged at record rates, and these mortgages are being held by foreign investors.”

Chancellor Robert Coombe introduced Walker, calling him “a very good patriot” who has been likened to Paul Revere for sounding the warning of looming troubles.

Walker, who says he is neither Republican nor Democrat, says spending has been rampant since federal spending limits ended in 2002. The current state is the product of both parties, he said, and the next generation is being hit with a “triple whammy” of higher debt, rising global competition and underfunded and crumbling infrastructure.

To fix the mess, Walker says the country’s spending practices need a massive overhaul. The health care system faces difficult times and must cap spending. A Constitutional amendment is needed to limit debt as a ratio to GDP. Taxes will have to increase. The political system and election laws must be reformed. And, a new commission will have to oversee fiscal policies.

To get all that done, Walker said it’s up today’s students to get involved and make their voices heard.

“A tsunami of spending is headed toward our shores, and we are not prepared,” he said. “In order for things to change, young people are going to have to get with it.”

The Paying for America Summit was one of two events focusing on America’s financial health Oct. 22 at DU. A second event, the Fiscal Wake-Up Tour, was scheduled for the evening. In addition to Walker, other speakers at the events included Robert Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, Isabel Sawhill, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and Brien Riedl, senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation.

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