By CARROLL WILSON
If audits conducted on the books of local governments showed their finances were in such a mess that the auditor just threw up his hands and confessed he couldn't follow the money, here's a likely scenario:
The citizens would string the elected officials up or tar and feather them and send them out of town riding on a rail.
Such a thing is irresponsible. It indicates those in charge don't care about being good stewards of the money they extract from the people. And it shows they think we in the hinterlands are a bunch of dummies.
Thank goodness for the Government Accountability Office. It's the investigative arm of Congress.
And in trying to balance the books of the federal government, its auditors must have consumed an entire city's worth of Valium.
See, the numbers don't add up. The financial system doesn't meet generally accepted accounting principles.
Well, consider this: The GAO found that "last year, various agencies spent $24 billion with no record of where the money went, while this year, agencies reported $3 billion more in expenses than actually went out the door," according to a Heritage Foundation report.
But that's just a penny on a stack that's 10 miles high.
The Washington Post reports that those in seats of power are working to address these and other problems.
It's certainly about time. This is the eighth year in a row that the books have been a mess.
So, if Congress and the president don't know "come here" from "sic 'em," how much confidence should taxpayers place in the precision of the estimates that government will need to, say, fight a war, run Medicare, give tax breaks? About zero.
How much confidence should taxpayers have in government projections about what's going to happen to Medicare in 20 years or how much the Raptor fighter plane is actually going to cost? About zero.
With revelations such as these, is it any wonder that cynicism runs deep? First, Enron. Now the government.
Tongue-clucking will obviously do no good. Nor will expressions of disgust.
It is said that programs are in place to fix the mess. But this still needs to be at the top of the president's to-do list.
It's not a sexy subject, of course - just one that shows fiscal responsibility is taken seriously.
Chickens still have feathers, and tar comes cheap.
(Carroll Wilson is editor of the Times Record News in Wichita Falls, Texas. Reach him at wilsonc(at)timesrecordnews.com)
© Copyright 2004 by Capitol Hill Blue
Got comments? Email me, dammit!
Permanent link for this article which can be used on any website: