NEW YORK--Social Security cannot be viewed in isolation but in combination with the tandem looming crises of soaring Medicare and Medicaid costs, U.S. Comptroller General and GAO Chief David M. Walker warned at a press conference Wednesday.
Expressing frustration not only over this combined Baby Boomer/Social Security crisis, but also with how social programs, military spending and government budgets are passed routinely in Washington without question, Walker stressed that few politicians or Wall Street executives are taking a look at the big picture.
Currently serving in his seventh of a 15-year term as U.S. Comptroller General at the General Accountability Office, Walker made his remarks at a press briefing organized by Market News International at the Princeton Club.
As to whether President Bush will succeed in getting a Social Security privatization plan passed before the next presidential election in 2008, Walker said he was highly doubtful. In fact, he believes it will probably take the American people another generation, perhaps closer to the projected Social Security deficit around 2040, for the public to understand the problems that a defaulted Social Security and healthcare system would mean for this country.
Walker also stressed the importance of protecting the knowledge base of the elderly, saying, "Senior citizens are probably the greatest untapped resource we have." The American economy is now moving from service into a "knowledge age" where quality of life issues will reign, he added.
"The past cannot be prologue. This cannot be sustained," Walker said of the $4.3 trillion U.S. deficit, running at four times the U.S. economy. "We're on an imprudent and unsustainable fiscal path."
In answer to a question from the floor, Walker predicted that the final outcome of Bush's privatization push will be an "add-on" of private accounts, rather than a "carve-out" of the existing Social Security trust.
Walker encouraged anyone interested in analyzing GAO data to go to the "From the Comptroller General" section at: http://www.gao.gov/.
"The numbers speak loudly," Walker said. "We have a broken business model - a structural long-term problem that we are going to have to deal with. We have to get back to pay/go on both sides of the ledger."