Former Reagan budget director David Stockman and David Walker, former U.S. Comptroller General under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, agreed Thursday that the U.S.’ greatest deficit is its leadership deficit.
I “don’t think [the budget] is fixable,” Stockman said during a panel discussion at the 50th annual Society of American Business Editors and Writers conference in Washington, D.C. “We’ve been cooking the books for a heckuva’ long time, both fiscally and in the monetary system in Wall Street.”
“[T]his is all bubbles. It’s not real. We’re not recovering. We’re in the third [bubble]. It’s going to go down like the last two,” he continued during his opening remarks. “If we don’t wake up to the fact that all of this is artificial, that it’s a result of really bad fiscal policy … We’re going to have some pretty horrible things to deal with the morning after when it happens.”
He added that the markets today are the work of a “huge casino of players” working overtime “front running the Fed.”
“None of this is sustainable,” he lamented. “It’s a race to the bottom to see who can destroy their financial system and currency faster.”
“Truly insane stuff,” he added.
Walker stepped in to give a slightly rosier take: “I don’t believe it’s too late.”
“I share a lot of concerns that Stockman has for monetary policy and the Federal Reserve,” he said, adding that we’ve politicized the Fed by making it its mission to deal with short-term unemployment (“that’s not its job”).
True, he conceded, the U.S.’ current fiscal and monetary policies are unsustainable. But with the right reforms (“streamline the tax system”), the course can be reversed.
“So what’s the problem?” he asked. “The problem is the biggest deficit this country has, especially in this town, is a leadership deficit.”
“The president was supposed to submit the first Monday in February. He still hasn’t submitted a budget. Leading from behind again. It’s unbelievable,” he added.
The entire room went dead silent. In an attempt to steer the conversation away from criticism of President Obama, the conference moderator moved the discussion along to the Q&A portion of the program.
“You’ve talked a lot about what needs to be done, I’m curious who you think will do it. Who are your favorites in either party?” TheBlaze’s Glenn Hall asked Walker and Stockman.
Walker, who says he’s a political independent, responded:
First, my view is that you don’t make tough transformational reforms unless the Chief Executive Officer is leading. The truth is…there’s only one person who is elected by all the people and that’s the President of the United States. (Well, Joe Biden might tell you he is but, you know, lets get real, okay?)
Nobody else is elected by all the people. The truth is the president is the Chief Executive Officer, has got the bully pulpit, has the ability to command media attention. Only the president can tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth and get that message out there, from one set of lips, throughout the whole country.
Then he needs to end up bringing people together on principles and values.
I believe he needs to take a page out of Bill Clinton’s book, what he did in ’98 (and I was a part of it), and hold three representative town hall forums with real voters with electronic confidential voting. Find out what the people think … that’ll give cover for the Democrats to reform social insurance with Republicans to raise revenues through tax reform and it’ll put us on the right path.
That’s what I think he needs to do. The question is: Will he do it?
Stockman leaned over to answer Walker’s question: “No.”
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