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A Deficit Hawk’s Sequestration Lament

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David Walker said the sequester is "mindless because not all spending is equal, and not all tax preferences are equal. We’re at a point where something has to be done.” David Walker said the sequester is "mindless because not all spending is equal, and not all tax preferences are equal. We’re at a point where something has to be done.” Dennis Cook/AP file photo

Former Comptroller General David Walker -- whose travels around the country sounding alarms about public debt are well documented -- greeted the first day of sequestration not with shock but with disappointment.

“The fact that this is happening is due to a failure by the president, the Senate and the House to reach a more reasoned and reasonable approach to reducing our deficit and mounting debt,” he told Government Executive on Friday. “It is mindless because not all spending is equal, and not all tax preferences are equal. We’re at a point where something has to be done.” 

Walker, who now runs an advocacy group called the Comeback America Initiative, warned that the sequester will “continue unless and until there is a larger effort that cuts mandatory spending, reduces defense and other discretionary cuts; and achieves comprehensive tax reform that will generate more revenues.”

Republicans who are resisting tax hikes, he believes, “would be willing to agree with tax reform if it were coupled with much larger spending reductions, including mandatory reductions hard-coded into law.” That means tackling “ who’s eligible for what, with what subsidy,” he said. “The frustration I have is that we’re going from short-term crisis to short-term crisis while treating the symptoms and not the disease.”

The government’s true cost drivers, Walker explained, are demographics, health care costs and an outdated tax system, none of which were addressed by the January fiscal cliff resolution, sequestration or the coming fight over the expiring continuing resolution.

A central problem that he is organizing to combat, Walker added, is that Congress—with all the time it takes off for federal holidays and summer recess-- is “working only part-time.”

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On March 12, join former David Walker and Charles S. Clark for our bi-annual Budget Town Hall event to talk debt ceiling debates, the fiscal cliff, continuing resolutions and sequestration. Learn more and register here.

Charlie Clark joined Government Executive in the fall of 2009. He has been on staff at The Washington Post, Congressional Quarterly, National Journal, Time-Life Books, Tax Analysts, the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, and the National Center on Education and the Economy. He has written or edited online news, daily news stories, long features, wire copy, magazines, books and organizational media strategies.

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