Government Debt Threatens Living Standards

Published June 1, 2009

One of the nation’s top accountants warned, “the most serious threat to the United States is its own fiscal irresponsibility” at a screening of a movie focused on the nation’s debt and government’s “fuzzy accounting” practices.

“Our current standard of living is unsustainable unless some drastic action is taken, and we must begin to take steps to face our deficits,” said David Walker, former comptroller general under President Bill Clinton, as he addressed approximately 100 people at an April 6 meeting of the Institute for Truth in Accounting in Chicago.

The national debt now totals $11.2 trillion, up 29 percent in less than two years, according to the institute.

National debt is the total amount the federal government owes to holders of the government’s bonds.

Gigantic Debt, Misleading Accounting

Walker and U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) were headliners at the meeting, which featured highlights from IOUSA, a movie produced by Christine O’Malley and directed by Patrick Creadon, which had its world premier at the 2008 Sundance Festival. The Institute for Truth in Accounting is a seven-year-old nonpartisan organization focused on attacking the nation’s public debt.

Institute President Sheila Weinberg said the film gives viewers concerned about the growing public debt a better understanding of the financial effects of current accounting practices in the United States.

“Our goal,” Weinberg said, “is to bring awareness to fuzzy accounting techniques in federal, state, and local government budgets.”

IOUSA covers financial irresponsibility on the part of the federal government back to March 4, 1789, when the government was created. For instance, the movie documented how, over the past 40 years, the nation has had 35 budget deficits.

Need for Constraints, Reforms

Walker and Kirk fielded questions from the audience and stressed the deficit problem can be solved only with tough budget constraints and reform of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the tax system.

Kirk added, “We need complete transparency via the Internet, and accountability.”

Tammy Nash ([email protected]) is a media specialist at The Heartland Institute.