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The comptroller: Washington's prophet of fiscal doom

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In an interview, Walker suggests another label: "A CPA with a personality. I'm no bean-counter."

In Walker's view, the impending demographic wave is only part of the problem. The growth of entitlements and the healthcare system in general threatens to bankrupt the nation, he says, referring to a potential "Argentina scenario" - as in, default.

"Look at how much our liabilities as a nation - and our unfunded promises for Social Security and Medicare - have grown," says the former partner at Arthur Andersen LLP, pointing to a chart that shows the figure for "fiscal exposures" more than doubling in just four years, from $20 trillion in 2000 to $43 trillion by the end of 2004. Of that, $8.1 trillion alone represents the new Medicare prescription drug plan.

"Yes, we need prescription drugs for seniors, but $8.1 trillion is more than the entire debt of the US outstanding since the beginning of the republic in 1789!" he proclaims.

Warning early and often

Shades of Ross Perot during the 1992 presidential campaign? Perhaps. As the head of the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO), Walker's goal has been to speak truth to power, and now, increasingly, help build up grass-roots pressure on Congress and the White House for fiscal reform.

In November 1998, when Walker was named to head the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, the federal budget was in the black - with surpluses projected for years to come. But Walker wasn't sitting easy, and by 2001, he was issuing warnings to Congress.

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