We Need A Fiscal State of the Union

If America's financial statements are published each year and no one reads them, can we expect our political system to function effectively in connection with fiscal matters? The answer seems to be a resounding - No!

Each December, the country's financial statements are released. But they are typically not reported on by the press, and are rarely read by members of Congress. In fact, very few people ever set eyes on them. This fundamental lack of financial literacy has helped exacerbate our escalating deficits and debt challenges. In the State of the Union Address, the president typically speaks in broad brush strokes, but doesn't talk specifics in connection with financial matters. The speech is typically filled with populist statements and sound bites and is absent of a true accounting of America's position, progress, and competitive posture. Partisan talking points are more common than hard financial facts or comprehensive reform proposals.

The above approach wouldn't fly in the private sector. Companies don't get anywhere without specific financial facts, trend information, competitor data, and credible projections. And publicly traded firms must hold annual meetings for investors to lay out the company's balance sheet, income statement, cash flows and longer-term prospects. The federal government should have that same responsibility: to be open and accountable with its finances with the Board of Directors -- the Congress and its shareholders, We The People.

This is why No Labels is proposing that the Comptroller General of the United States give an annual address to Congress, in order to present America's current financial condition, longer-term fiscal outlook, and comparative data with other countries in clear, concrete, and understandable terms. The Comptroller General is a non-partisan professional who essentially serves as the Auditor General for the federal government.

The Comptroller General's address should be followed by an annual fiscal address by the president to the Congress and the nation. The president's address would be designed to clearly and thoughtfully explain the nation's economic state and his/her plans to address the financial and fiscal information outlined by the Comptroller General.

Effective leaders must be able to convey complex financial and fiscal matters to citizens in a clear, concise, and easily digestible manner. This address will be an opportunity for the president to do just that. With greater financial literacy and a clear understanding of our current and projected financial condition and related economic health, Washington will be better able to find common ground on the policy solutions we need to move America forward.

No Labels also thinks that the President, the Vice President, all Department and Agency heads, and all members of Congress should be required to read the federal government's annual consolidated financial statements and to sign a certified statement that they have done so. Comparable players in the private sector are required to read such statements and the federal government should not be an exception.

What do you think? Please leave a comment below and join the conversation about No Labels' proposed congressional rules reforms.


Click here for Monday and Tuesday's proposals, and here for Wednesday's reform ideas. Stay tuned for tomorrow's proposal.


Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

 

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Dave Walker

Dave Walker is a co-founder of No Labels, the former comptroller general of the United States under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and is the founder, president and CEO of the Comeback America Initiative (CAI).

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