Mile Post 370

Mile Post 370
Mile Post 370

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Transparency Shouldn't Be Exclusive to Corporations: A Plan To Stop theGovernment from Cooking The Books

I believe that I have a pretty good understanding of Economics. Now, before you hold up a Wooden Cross, Try to Douse Me with Holy Water or Shoot Me with a Silver Bullet, realize that if you deal with money, barter or trade your time and skills for money, you've also involved yourself in Economics. 

One of the Economic Indicators (of how well we are doing as a country) is employment.  Specifically, it's a trailing indicator, so, in economic terms, things are already getting better before more jobs happen or already getting worse before jobs start getting cut.  "Unemployment Figures" are important to the public, because we usually know when a friend or acquaintance somewhere within our circle has lost a job.  It is personal, understandable and something to which we can relate.

So I had to write this post, when I saw this post from "The FEE:" Is There a Conspiracy to Protect Obama's Record?

Merging Economics with Politics is easy, because they can't be separated.  Most things that are demanded by a populist constituency and given by a politician, require additional costs.   
  • When additional regulations are put in place to alter behavior or to protect the public from a manufacturer, it costs consumers in monetary value, convenience or time. 
  • When government continually over spends and runs a large national debt, where borrowing costs must be raised to pay the debt off, it costs businesses and citizens more in taxes. 
  • When a country's Central Bank chooses to increase the amount of money in circulation, without increasing the commodity on which money is based upon, money has less value and prices go up to reflect that loss of value.
Because of the dishonest decisions of Executives in reporting the financial results of energy giant, Enron, many investors and employees were hurt and lost investments and jobs.  Because of the high visibility of the bankruptcy and financial dissolution of Enron, laws were eventually passed that require a company's executives to be responsible for its economic claims.  So Congress passed and President Clinton signed the Sarbanes-Oxley regulations into law.  And while this costs a company time and its customers money, it has been the law of the land for nearly 20 years.

About 200 years ago, Alexis de Tocqueville, upon visiting America, wrote, "Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith."  While I could easily turn this into an ethical issue, making a case for that basic morality has disappeared because Christianity, as a value system, has been forced out of society, there is another more important point to be made: Equality under the Law. 

Our government issues debt (Bonds) to cover the gap between what it takes in as income tax and what it actually spends (deficit spending).  Because of the run-away spending that has happened under President Barack Obama, our bonds were recently down graded, due to the risk associated with the amount of debt we are carrying as compared to our Gross Domestic Product.  Because of the downgrade, the government must now pay a higher rate of return on these bonds.  This is a death spiral that will continue until the Bonds are of Junk Status, paying high returns, but not a safe investment, due to the risk of non-payment, requiring large amounts of Capital Returns to attract investors.  Ultimately, it's the tax payer that will have to deal with all of this.

Because this situation, is similar to the Enron debacle, wouldn't it make sense that Sarbanes-Oxley Financial Reporting Laws should apply to the Federal Government?  I am not an expert on Sarbanes-Oxley Financial Reporting Law requirements (and I would not be surprised if the government had exempted itself from this law.)  However, our investors and tax payers should have reasonable assurances that we can and will repay the purchasers of this debt in a timely manner and at the rate of return to which we've obligated ourselves.

 In Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution states that the President "shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient;..."  The State of the Union is not a place to announce the latest Social Program or some other nation building expedition. 

The State of the Union Speech, would be the BEST time for the President (not a White House Press Secretary) to OWN the economic news, whether good or bad.  This news should include:

  1. REAL Unemployment Rates (not the manipulated numbers that don't include people that have dropped out of the job market, having given up all hope of ever finding employment again.  It should include the whole story, including the percentage of working aged adults that are participating in the workforce)
  2. The Debt to Gross Domestic Product Ratio, so we can really understand what we owe to bond holders.
  3. A Budget Pie Chart, showing percentages for Military, Social Services, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, the ACA, SNAP, WIC, AFDC and Debt Payments
  4. The Expected Revenue from Taxes and How We should Deal with any budgetary shortfall

The President's proposed fiscal Budget should be sent out electronically to Congressional Representatives, Senators and their Staffs, with copies available to any citizen that wants to see it, at least 2 weeks before the State of the Union.  It should be in a streamlined form that is understandable to the general public and limited to no more that 10 pages total of data and graphs, not 1400 pages of minutiae designed to bore the individual to death. 

At that point in time the president should make his case as to which programs are necessary, which programs are required by the Constitution and which programs are superfluous.  Then and only then should Congress respond to the President's budgetary request and the president should have the bully pulpit to sell his programs.

This system would work well with the proposed Balanced Budget Amendment and former President, Ronald Reagan's much sought after Line Item Veto, giving the President the chance to veto a line item he finds unnecessary or wasteful, but giving Congress the ultimate authority to override any Presidential Veto and still control the purse strings.

When any law excludes the ruling oligarchy, but applies to the rest of us, the American people think that it's time for a house cleaning.  With the carved out exemptions for Congress in Obamacare, America's citizens are on a voting rampage against the establishment, supporting outsider candidates for President in a 2 to 1 ratio over the establishment candidates.   

If we are all equal under the law, shouldn't LAWS apply to all citizens, including those who we elected and are paying to govern us?  Sarbanes-Oxley is the law of the land.  If Sarbanes-Oxley Financial Requirement Laws are a requirement for America's Businesses, shouldn't they be a requirement for the Federal Government?  

It is past time that our elected leaders take responsibility for the decisions that they make.  The Government needs to follow any law it created. 

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