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The Need For More Transparency in Budgeting

Last week, the U.S. Treasury released the Fiscal Year 2008 Financial Report of the U.S. Government.

According to a Treasury press release:

"Revenue results in this year’s Financial Report were $2.7 trillion, increasing slightly by $34 billion or just over 1 percent, compared to last year. Total costs were $3.6 trillion, an increase of $.7 trillion or 25 percent compared to last year. Net operating cost increased to $1 trillion, up from last year’s net operating cost of $275.5 billion."

During the last session of Congress, I introduced H.R. 3958, the Truth in Accounting Act, which would require the Treasury to calculate the long-term budget figure in this report to create greater transparency in the budgeting process and provide a more accurate assessment of our nation's real financial standing.

It would do this by requiring the Treasury to include a program-by-program calculation of : (1) the generational imbalance; (2) the fiscal imbalance; and (3) the total amount of the fiscal imbalance plus the public debt. The President, in preparing the federal budget, would then have to take this financial statement into consideration, including the effect of the overall budget upon: (1) the generational imbalance calculation and the fiscal imbalance calculation; and (2) the net present value of the overall fiscal exposures of the federal government.

In other words, our government would have a more accurate number from which to work when creating the federal budget, which could hopefully help to avoid irresponsible spending. In the not-so-distant future, our nation will be faced with making essential reforms to large domestic programs, like Medicare and Medicaid, to make them fiscally sustainable. However, we can’t do this responsibly without an accurate forecast of not only the short-term, but also the long-term financial standing of our nation. If we don’t get a grip on our finances, we will continue to spend more than we have. And our children will pay the price.

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