Sometimes, just to stay positive, we joke about government accounting.
We often use fun metaphors like “government finances are like being set up on a blind date, and the only thing you know is they are nice” or the famous line in The Wizard of Oz, "Don't look behind the curtain."
But our favorite is “The government is financially catfishing us.”
And voila, the term financial catfishing was born!
We all know what catfishing is, and think about it: the phrase works.
The government is financially catfishing us through non-transparent accounting standards, like pretending to have balanced budgets while running massive deficits.
The question we always ask is: Why is government accounting so different from all other accounting practices?
Why are there two different standards?
Isn't money, money?
Here are three examples of how government accounting differs from rules for corporations.
1. ERISA Rules
2. They can keep two or three financial books. (ACFR, General Funds, Budget)
3. Governments can list borrowed money as revenue in their budgets, as seen in this image of Illinois's 2020 - 2023 operating budget:
If you think corporations have too many "loopholes," the government has even more.
Political posturing and conversations about the budget, debt ceiling, military, and entitlements aren't taking place from a solid foundation of complete transparency because of the accounting standards.
Therefore, elected officials and their policy prescriptions can't serve the greatest common good because they operate from a place of half-truths and obfuscation.
Truth in Accounting makes no policy suggestions beyond transparency and complete accounting of the tax resources. Until then, we will be financially catfished and can't ensure that citizens are knowledgeable participants in their government.
It's that simple!
Total transparency through the highest accounting standards is foundational to our representative form of government. If you agree, help us stop this erosion with a gift today.
Onward and upward!
P.S. Save the date for GovFin. November 9, 2023
Empowering Governments, Modernizing Reporting
Location: Washington, DC
This educational forum will focus on the passage of legislation, including the Financial Data Transparency Act (FDTA), the Grants Reporting Efficiency and Transparency (GREAT) Act, and how governments can explore what data standards are and how they improve efficiencies and modernize reporting.
KPMG will host the conference at their offices at 1801 K Street NW, in Washington, DC.
Truth in Accounting Director Christin Kuglin is the conference Chairperson and will present at the conference.