Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Value of Oversight

Democrats around the country are campaigning largely on the idea that they will provide much-needed oversight over the executive branch. It's not a sexy topic to run a campaign on, and some have interpreted it as a thinly disguised call for Democrats to dig up dirt on the Bush administration and be obstructionists for the next two years.

But perhaps "oversight" could mean a little more than that. Menzie Chinn does a nice job highlighting a speech that GAO Comptroller David Walker gave last month. The table he highlights shows that the US government's future liabilities more than doubled between 2000 and 2005 - an increase of $26 trillion. Menzie writes:
When the President speaks of the Administration's commitment to fiscal restraint, and the need to rein in Social Security, it behooves us all to look at the fourth line under "implicit exposures"; the largest single increment to the the present value of liabilities -- larger than explicit liabilities (U.S. Treasury debt) run up with all the budget deficits over the past 5 years, and larger than Social Security liabilities that have troubled the Administration -- is Medicare Part D, passed by this Congress, and signed into law by President Bush.

Wasn't there any oversight at the time? And didn't somebody know about the immense fiscal burden imposed by the passage of this legislation. The answers are respectively "no" and "yes".
So what's the value of proper governmental oversight? Apparently, several trillion dollars.


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