(NaturalNews) The federal government declared a $318 billion budget deficit last year, but in reality it was over $3 trillion, according to government accountants.
"We've been hiding the bottom line from the American people," says Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., "It's not fair to them, and it's delusional on our part."
Congress uses "cash accounting" -- an accounting practice that would be illegal for any U.S. corporation -- in order to report a lower deficit publicly. This method is comparable to a checking account balance which shows the daily balance, but excludes payments to be debited such as bills. Similarly, Congress has not been accounting for outflow to programs such as Medicare and Social Security. Without these omissions, the U.S. budget deficit is well over $3 trillion.
Some Congress members are lobbying for change, arguing more accurate numbers are needed when making budget decisions and that honest accounting would encourage second thoughts before approving popular spending bills.
Though the House advocated a proposal to include long-term expenses in publicly announced budgets, the bill died when Senate and House members could not agree on the numbers.
Supporters of open accounting practices on Capitol Hill say it is time for Congress to be straightforward about accounting procedures, particularly when the viability of Medicare, Social Security and government pensions are being called into question.
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