The first major step toward electing the next American president came yesterday, with Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee the big winners in the Iowa caucuses.
So perhaps it is a good time to ponder this question: Just how big a mess will our next president inherit? What will it be like to follow what is increasingly looking like the worst administration in American history?
Part of the answer to those questions came recently from one of the most profound stories I've seen in a long time. It has enormous implications for the future of our country, but I imagine only a small percentage of Americans read or understood it.
Legal Schnauzer readers will understand it. And for that, we can thank Scott Horton, of Harper's.
Horton reports on a speech by an obscure public official named David M. Walker, who is the comptroller general of the United States and head of the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
What did Mr. Walker have to say? "The federal government's fiscal exposures totaled approximately $53 trillion as of September 30, 2007, up more than $2 trillion from September 30, 2006, and an increase of more than $32 trillion from about $20 trillion as of September 30, 2000. This translates into a current burden of about $175,000 per American or approximately $455,000 per American household."
What does this say about the fiscal management of the George W. Bush administration? Let's allow Horton to put that into perspective: "The cost of this presidency, put in dollars and cents through today, is $32 trillion. That's a 150 percent increase in exposure since the reins of office were handed to George W. Bush."
Then Horton cuts directly to the heart of the matter: "It's as if a team of professional burglars were set loose with the tax code."
What kind of coverage did Walker's speech draw? Almost none. It appears that Horton came across it on a relatively obscure Web site. "Americans don't want to hear it," Horton says. "They'd rather be building up credit-card debt, not investments or savings."
The final word from Horton?
"If there is one single fault of the Bush-Cheney administration that will haunt it beyond all others, then it is this: They recognize no duty to posterity. They consume and squander shamelessly. And they mortgage the nation's future in the process."
How many Americans vote Republican because they think the party is fiscally responsible? The facts tell a different story.
I would correct Horton's assessment only slightly. He says this shameful fiscal record will haunt the Bushies. I doubt that; they don't care. I think it's more accurate to say their fiscal irresponsibility will haunt us--regular folks--for a long time to come.