Sunday, September 6, 2020

Bi Partisanship Request to Congress for Fiscal State of Nation Resolution

Congressman Bergman from our Fist District participated in a letter addressed to Congress Speaker Pelosi and Leader McCarthy pushing for the Fiscal State of the Nation Resolution. First, "... the Fiscal State of the Nation resolution would increase the transparency of our fiscal situation by requiring GAO to present an annual report to Congress and the country detailing the fiscal health of the nation."(Peters, S. & Arrington, 2020). Creating new data metrics will ultimately impact change the way people think and thus opens a new pathway to disseminate knowledge.  

The letter outlines, "Second, we must create mechanisms to help Congress demonstrate greater accountability in navigating the decisions to restore our fiscal health and sustainability."(Peters, S. & Arrington, 2020). It goes on to elaborate, "Third, the federal debt is growing at an alarming pace". COVID is likely to make our fiscal situation worse unless economic activity speeds up enough over a the next 5 years to pay the "future hedging" bill due back. 

The letter is supporting something called the Fiscal State of the Nation Resolution in an effort to better gain control over our national debt.  They want to keep the budget and debt in the forefront of conversation as the pandemic recedes. The goal is to put mechanisms in place such as budget reporting and debt-to-GDP targets that may help curb future spending and guide budgeting decisions.

What is the Fiscal State of the Nation Resolution?

You can read more about the Fiscal State of the National Resolution on the government site (H. CON. RES. 68., 2019) Its mission states, "Providing for a joint hearing of the Committees on the Budget of the House of Representatives and the Senate to receive a presentation from the Comptroller General of the United States regarding the audited financial statement of the executive branch."

The type of information the report provides, and how it is interpreted, will be important consideration of what conclusions people draw from the audit. Too much information creates confusion while too little can mask serious problems. If the goal is to understand how money is being spent they should think about offering researcher opportunities to review areas of concerns and make recommendations on how to cost save and maintain/improve effectiveness. 

Looking at the branch level provides very detailed and expensive review that will cost money and labor power so we have to make sure the benefits are likely to produce benefits. I'm not an expert on government functioning but I suspect operational aspects are choices made at the departmental/local level. Executives and decision makers don't typically go down to detail unless they find there are spending concerns and adjustments that would lead to increased performance. Most of the time aggregate information is used and that leaves out micro changes that support macro performance.

The document also states that within 45 days of the submission of an audit they will also present findings such as,"... in the report accompanying such audited financial statement, an analysis of the financial position and condition of the Federal Government, including financial measures (such as the net operating cost, income, budget deficits, or budget surpluses) and sustainability measures (such as the long-term fiscal projection or social insurance projection) described in such report".

Any time someone looks to add more statistics and metrics we have to consider the benefits that the information provides for decision makers. Adding data complexity that leads to information overload is not a great idea unless that information is expected to create advantage. Yet, if the proposal has some benefit in changing the way we think and creating more transparency of national problems makes it then makes sense to incorporate new ways of looking at an old problem.  

Information spurs thinking among actively and engaged members of Congress and the academic community. New transparent reporting helps ensure money is being spent appropriately and in the best interest of tax payers. High vantage point numbers can also provide a better overview of what is happening on the debt/revenue front and places people can look for cost savings (You can assign dollar amounts/quantitative value to non-chargeable services). At the Congress level the discussions will focus on macro principles that will impact programs. 

Our debt problems won't just magically disappear unless we balance the budget and change how we view government. We often think of government as having unending strength and financial ability that can muscle through problems. Much of our market position and financial capital is because people trust the money and way in which business is conducted. Running a consistent debt means we are not efficient  and/or effective in our government functions and will ultimately lead to some consequence and market correction (slow or fast) in the future. 

We are fiscally responsible when we are able to do more with less which comes through renewed focus on how money is spent and its ultimate impact. Within our budgets we would be forced to think about the cost of inefficiency and the best uses of government money to help others. When I say that, I don't mean an excuse to cut necessary programs in a mad dash to cute, cut, cut! Instead, I would think more long-term about how big data can lead us to higher systems thinking that ends up in more accurate program evaluative measures.

There may also be times when the financial considerations are less important than the moral principle and money doesn't matter.  There will need to be a way to factor in our moral principles into our decision making matrix. I'm sure the economists have a term for moral principles that can be used in calculations. In this case, we prescribe a value based on factors such as cost, environmental impact, people helped, etc... One would have to design the measurement and people would have to agree with it (Good luck!).  The point is not where we choose to spend our money but what overriding policy/methodology are we going to maintain and whether or not we will work toward financial security (or alternative workable policy). 

I think in this case the new information makes sense and provides more benefits than detractors. If officials feel they have too much information they may need to either cut back on data in places where it isn't as important and/or no longer used and add new metrics for new national challenges. The new information adds to people starting to think about fiscal management and provide some meaning for decision making. With new metrics comes new ways of thinking that can lead solution finding. Its one of those issues we can't ignore forever with looming budget issues from COVID. 

H. CON. RES. 68 (September 26th, 2019).  H.Con.Res.68 — 116th Congress (2019-2020). Retrieved 

Peters, S. & Arrington, J. (June 1, 2020) Letter to Congress on Fiscal State of the Nation Resolution. Retrieved from...

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