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Policy: Budgets & Deficits

If the government doesn't know how much it spends or how much it owes, how can it know anything?

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Mark Tapscott,Morning Examiner,Taxes,Debt Ceiling,Budgets and Deficits,GAO,Spending

When an accountant prepares a balance sheet for a company, the purpose is to measure the firm's actual financial health, as opposed to the fantasies pushed by the public relations department gnomes.

Sales may be up 10 percent, but that doesn't mean much if the company is swimming in debt, operational expenses are out of control and the bank says forget about getting more credit.

That's pretty much the current state of affairs for the federal government. Tax revenues are climbing, but the debt is out of control and nobody knows for sure how much the bureaucrats are actually spending.

Close enough for government work

Under the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006, federal agencies are required to report an estimated 70 percent of all government spending for posting on USASpending.gov.

The purpose of the website is to enable every American with a mouse and an internet connection to track how the federal government spends the money it collects in taxes.

But a Government Accounting Office report issued earlier this week said federal agencies failed to report spending on 275 assistance programs and either reported it incorrectly or late for another 67. That means more than $600 billion isn't properly accounted for on USASpending.gov.

We owe it to ourselves

Some politicians and economists contend the national debt, which now exceeds $17 trillion, isn't something to worry about because "we owe it to ourselves."

But the $17 trillion national debt isn't the most worrisome obligation facing government. There is also something called "unfunded liabilities."

An unfunded liability is a government promise to pay something like a benefit or loan guarantee that it doesn't have assets to cover.

According to usdebtclock.org, which continually tracks such things, the total federal unfunded liability as this edition of the Morning Examiner is written is more than $118 trillion. That's more than $1 million for every taxpayer.

It's called "bankruptcy"

Millions of Americans are counting on some part of that $118 trillion "being there" when they need it. It won't be, as things presently stand.

When an individual's debts exceed his assets and his projected ability to pay, he's bankrupt. Government is no different, except for one factor, taxes.

Government can always raise taxes, right? Maybe not. Just to cover one year of Medicare Part A's deficit would require a 21 percent payroll tax hike, according to former Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin. There's only so much blood in the turnip.

On today's washingtonexaminer.com

Editorial: Look who's been taking secret foreign cash!

Watchdog/Mark Tapscott: CFPB exec sought ways to shield bank docs from public.

Columnists/Jed Babbin: Obama's spending cuts put a squeeze on developing new military technology.

Columnists/Cal Thomas: Historians will be kicking around Richard Nixon's legacy for another 40 years.

Columnists/Michael Barone: Primaries show GOP voters wary of Tea Party candidates, skeptical of party establishment.

Columnists/Philip Klein: Economic downturn explains most of health spending slowdown.

Beltway Confidential/T. Becket Adams: Bundy camp sends "warning" to local law enforcement.

PennAve/Joseph Lawler: Americans keep getting inflation wrong and here's why that matters.

Legal Newsline/Kyla Asbury: Attorneys to get $4.75 million in Red Bull class-action settlement.

Video Morning Examiner: Morning Examiner with Steve Doty for Aug. 7.

In other news

The New York Times: Decades later, two top Khmer Rouge leaders convicted of crimes against humanity.

NBC News: Bowe Bergdahl talking to Army investigators.

USA Today: Russia retaliates against U.S., E.U.

Righty Playbook

The American Thinker: Libertarian folly and why everybody is a social-issues voter.

The American Conservative: White Messiah Complex.

The American Spectator: Is Rick Perlstein the new Doris Kearns Goodwin?

Bonus must-read

The Federalist: How the Obama administration lied about health insurance company bailouts.

Lefty Playbook

The Daily Beast: Whose torture secrets will Obama keep?

Grist: Turning swords into ploughshares is a balm for veterans.

The American Prospect: House intel panel finds no Benghazi scandal; will Boehner ignore its findings?

Bonus must-read

Mother Jones: These seven charts show why the rent is too damn high and what can be done about it.

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