U.S. Comptroller David Walker, the nation's auditor, issued a report today identifying constructive recommendations to get America back on sound fiscal footing. According to the Comptroller:
"Since the founding of the republic and the ratification of the Constitution, the U.S. government has evolved to reflect changing circumstances at home and abroad. At the end of George Washington’s presidency in 1797, there were four cabinet-level departments—most run by small staffs of civil servants—and five cabinet-level officials, including the Attorney General. Today, there are nearly 30 major federal departments and agencies with cabinet–level officials in the executive branch, and the federal workforce, including military personnel, now totals in the millions. In 1797, U.S. government spending represented about 2 percent of the U.S. economy and now it represents over 20 percent.
A quick look at the federal budget reveals how much we have expanded beyond the Constitution’s framers’ original thoughts and our modest beginnings. In the coming decades, however, our ability to sustain even the constitutionally enumerated responsibilities of the federal government will come under increasing pressure . . . a top-to-bottom review of federal programs and policies is essential. Congress, the President, and the American people need to decide which federal activities remain priorities, which should be overhauled, and which have simply outlived their usefulness.
Much as the framers of the Constitution did, we need to ask some basic questions regarding what we expect from our government. As part of this process, policymakers may need to reconsider some long-held assumptions about what government does; how it does business; who should do that business and how those activities should be financed, whether through consumption taxes, income taxes, payroll taxes, or user fees. This reexamination should extend government wide and should be done on a continuing basis; goals and desired outcomes evolve over time, and government must stay attuned to those changes."
Click here to read the full report and for additional details on the Comptroller's recommendations.