Bob Dieterich, the chief financial officer of First National Bank of Scotia, looks at federal spending much the way he looks at the balance sheet of his $400 million-asset bank, examining its interest rate risk and debt trends. His take? If the government were a bank, it would certainly fail a regulatory examination.

"Banks are regulated and the examiners look at interest rate risk, but nobody is doing that at the federal level," Dieterich says. "When I looked at the nation's finances, I was just shocked."

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