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Senior US official likens challenges facing America, Roman Republic
John Byrne
Published: Tuesday August 14, 2007


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The US comptroller general David Walker issued a report last week in Chicago in which he likened the present situation in the United States to the Roman Republic or an organization that fails to adapt and "may not survive."

Nobody reported it. The first report of the speech came today in London's Financial Times.

Walker, who heads the Congressional, nonpartisan Government Accountability Office has offered dire forecasts for the United States in the past. In interviews with 60 Minutes and NPR, he's said that he believes the US cannot continue to live at such levels of prosperity indefinitely, since much of current prosperity is erected upon debt.

"Throughout history, many great nations have also failed to survive," Walker told an audience in Chicago last week. "I should point out that the longest standing republic and the major superpower of its day no longer exists, and that's the Roman Republic."

He warned of “striking similarities” between the current crises facing America and the factors toppled Rome, including “declining moral values and political civility at home, an over-confident and over-extended military in foreign lands and fiscal irresponsibility by the central government."

"In my view," he added, "it's time to learn from history and take steps to ensure the American Republic is the first to stand the test of time."

America's top government inspector didn't stop there. He also bemoaned US fiscal policy, underfunded healthcare, poor public schools, lack of retirement benefits, a worsening environment, Iraq, aging infrastructure and immigration policy. His remark about "aging infrastructure" came just days before the Minneapolis bridge collapse.

"Simply stated, America is on a path toward an explosion of debt," he added. "And that indebtedness threatens our country's, our children's, and our grandchildren's futures."

"Long range simulations from my agency are chilling," he continued. "If we continue as we have, policy makers will eventually have to dramatically and/or slash government services the American people depend on and take for granted. Just pick a program -- student loans, the interstate highway system, national parks, federal law enforcement, and even our armed forces."

In a May 60 Minutes broadcast Walker warned that the US faced a "fiscal cancer."

"The fact is, is that we don't face an immediate crisis," he told CBS. "And, so people say, 'What's the problem?' The answer is, we suffer from a fiscal cancer. It is growing within us. And if we do not treat it, it could have catastrophic consequences for our country."

"If nothing changes, the federal government's not gonna be able to do much more than pay interest on the mounting debt and some entitlement benefits," he added. "It won't have money left for anything else – national defense, homeland security, education, you name it."

Read the full speech here.