When it comes to addressing our growing national debt, there is no shortage of disagreement between the political parties in Washington. But there is one thing they should both agree on: to tell the truth about our nation’s growing fiscal imbalance.
That’s hardly the case today. Fiscal reporting by the federal government — whether through the Congressional Budget Office or the Office of Management and Budget — vastly underestimates the size of the problem we face and the inter-generational consequences of remaining on our current path.
For example, trillions of dollars in unfunded promises to current and future retirees through programs like Social Security and Medicare are not captured in either the reporting of this year’s deficit or our total national debt. In addition, cost projections on pending legislation only look 10 years into the future — hardly far enough to gauge their long-term budgetary impact.
As a result, the real financial burdens being placed on young people and future generations are not adequately disclosed and action to fix this problem is being delayed.
Our elected officials have been hiding behind myopic budgeting and accounting practices for too long. But now some genuine leaders in Congress are taking steps to increase transparency and accountability in our federal budget system. Wednesday, Senators John Thune (R-S.D.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) are introducing the INFORM (Intergenerational Financial Obligations Reform) Act, with co-sponsors Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Chris Coons (D-De.). This bill, also championed by the youth-led “The Can Kicks Back” campaign, would make it more difficult for Washington politicians to kick the can down the road by providing information about the long-term impact of today’s unsustainable fiscal policy.