The US is spending $4 billion a day more than it is taking in, putting the country on an unsustainable fiscal path perpetuated by both Democrats and Republicans, according to David Walker, head of the Comeback America Initiative.
Solving America's problems will require a combination weighted toward spending reductions but one that also will require spreading the taxation burden around more evenly, said Walker, the former US comptroller general.
"We're not growing enough and we're not going to grow our way out of this problem," he said in a CNBC interview. "We would have to have double-digit real GDP growth for decades to grow our way out of this hole."
Walker's organization promotes fiscal stability and is warning that the US is trailing many other developed nations in terms of getting its fiscal policies in order. Comeback America is a conservative think tank funded mostly through a grant from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, named for the founder the Blackstone Group private equity firm.
In fact, according to an index that Comeback America developed, the US is in worse shape from a fiscal standpoint than debt-plagued nations such as Italy or Spain, he said.
With the nation hitting its $14.294 trillion debt ceiling and in need of an extension, Congress is debating the proper mix of tax increases and spending cuts so that the US does not end up like weaker euro zone nations such as Greece, Spain and Portugal that are in danger of debt defaults.
Walker leans more towards the spending-cut side, but also sees inequities in the tax structure that must be corrected to help generate revenue.
"We have to broaden the base—51 percent of Americans don't have any income taxes," he said. "That's not acceptable in a democracy."
The richest Americans are paying just 18 percent income tax rates even while the top marginal rate is supposed to be 35 percent, he said.
Straightening out the imbalances will be a tough choice for politicians and, Walker said, will be an integral part of next year's presidential campaign.
"The 2012 election is going to have to be about what's the proper role for government," he said. "How are we going to solve our financial problems?"