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Former US comptroller general on island

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For ten years he served as Uncle Sam's top gatekeeper for public spending. Former US comptroller general David Walker is on Guam this week for a public auditors conference, and he says the federal government must come to grips with huge unfunded promises in order to ensure a more sustainable future for America.

Entitlement reform was one of the central topics of Walker's wide-ranging presentation before the Association of Pacific Islands Public Auditors. Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, and the Affordable Care Act account for two-thirds of the annual federal budget. The good news, Walker says, is that contrary to what many might believe Social Security is the easiest fix. "We can reform it in a way that deals with the retirement age, the replacement rates, how much income gets taxed, and reform it in a way that everybody gets more than what they think they're going to get. Because seniors think they're going to get taken advantage of, young people don't think they're going to get anything, and they're both wrong," he explained.

Walker says fixing Medicaid, Medicare and now the Affordable Care Act will be much more challenging. He believes the government needs to come up with a universal health care plan, noting, "We're going to have to rethink about what level of universal healthcare should everybody get, and how are we going to finance it. So you can't look at Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act separately. We've really got to look at them in a comprehensive fashion. There is a way forward, we can deal with it, but it's going to come down to tough choices."

Walker believes the government should limit coverage to preventative, wellness and catastrophic care, saying, "That's universal need that we have to make sure everybody has, okay. People may want more than that, and they ought to have that option, but they ought to have to be able to pay something for it. The problem is the federal government of the US tends to overpromise, and subsidize too many people, including wealthy people for healthcare. And that's inappropriate, its unaffordable and its unsustainable."

Walker also discussed federal spending reform, and how states and territorial governments should wean themselves from ever-dwindling funding from Washington. Walker served as the seventh UScomptroller general from 1998 to 2008.

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