Skip to main content

How U.S. can budget for future

By John Thune and Tim Kaine, Special to CNN
updated 11:11 AM EDT, Wed July 24, 2013
Lawmakers routinely make fiscal policy without thinking of future generations, Sens. John Thune and Tim Kaine say.
Lawmakers routinely make fiscal policy without thinking of future generations, Sens. John Thune and Tim Kaine say.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • John Thune, Tim Kaine: Washinton's fiscal thinking doesn't account for long term
  • They say Congress, administration must analyze budget moves for future effect
  • They say their new bill -- INFORM -- would require this and account for fiscal gaps
  • Writers: Lawmakers must be honest about long-term challenges for future

Editor's note: Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, is the chairman of the Senate Republican Conference and a member of the Senate Finance Committee. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, is the former governor of Virginia and a member of the Senate Budget Committee.

(CNN) -- As a society, we do too much short-term thinking. In Washington, that has meant passing bills that paper over fiscal problems in the short term while ignoring long-term consequences for future generations. The result is a fiscal gap that places unknown financial burdens on today's young people.

We may have different prescriptions for how to address our budget challenges, but from a personal standpoint, we both worry about how a lack of information about long-term budget realities will affect our children's generations and those that follow.

We want Congress to do more long-term planning, like families and businesses across this country do every day. Instead of kicking the can down the road, Congress and the administration need to understand how policy decisions made today in Washington will affect future generations of Americans.

John Thune
John Thune
Tim Kaine
Tim Kaine

On Wednesday, we are introducing a bill to bring more transparency to the budget process and ensure that members of Congress and the administration are honest with themselves and the American people about current and future budget realities.

Right now, Congress only looks at the effect of legislation over the next 10 years. Rarely is information presented that reflects the longer-term impact. Our bill -- the Intergenerational Financial Obligations Reform Act, or INFORM -- would ensure that Congress, the administration and the American people have the information necessary to understand the effect that taxes, spending policies and future economic advancements will have on the fiscal health of the country and on individual Americans 20, 50 or even 75 years down the road.

The INFORM Act would require the president to provide a detailed accounting of how the administration's budget and policy recommendations, and its predictions of economic health, would affect young people down the line.

National parks face budget cuts
Budget cuts mean no fireworks for troops
Obama's poll numbers remain steady

It would also require the Government Accountability Office to provide an annual analysis of the impact of future budget realities on generations to come and account for any fiscal gaps (the difference between spending and tax revenue).

This approach -- known as a generational accounting and fiscal gap analysis -- would examine the full scope of the government's obligations, present and future, and then look at the effect those obligations will have on current and future generations. Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush each used this tool in submitting executive budgets.

Young Americans in their 20s and 30s deserve to know what the decisions of today's lawmakers mean for their future. And lawmakers should use every tool at our disposal to make better decisions. We believe this approach will help us improve the fiscal health of the country.

Washington has spent enough time kicking the can down the road. It's time to start being honest about the long-term challenges facing future generations.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writers.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Jeff Yang calls Ello a wakeup call to Facebook and Twitter, and a sign of hope for fast-rising upstarts Pinterest and Snapchat.
updated 10:23 AM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Paul Waldman says the Secret Service should examine its procedures to make sure there are no threats to the White House--but without losing the openness so valuable to democracy
updated 10:55 AM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Jesse Williams says the videotape and 911 call that resulted in police gunning down John Crawford at a Walmart reveals the fatal injustice of racial assumptions
updated 7:03 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Mel Robbins says officials should drop the P.C. pose: The beheading in Oklahoma was not workplace violence. Plenty of evidence shows Alton Nolen was an admirer of ISIS.
updated 3:11 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, William Piekos says..
updated 3:11 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, writes William Piekos.
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits America, Madeleine Albright says a world roiled by conflict needs these two great democracies to commit to moving their partnership forward
updated 10:04 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
John Sutter: Lake Providence, Louisiana, is the parish seat of the "most unequal place in America." And until somewhat recently, the poor side of town was invisible on Google Street View.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Julian Zelizer says in the run up to the 2016 election the party faces divisions on its approach to the U.S.'s place in the world
updated 10:19 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says Common Core supporters can't devise a new set of standards and then fail to effectively sell it.
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Earlier this month, Kenyans commemorated the heinous attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.
updated 2:59 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
David Wheeler says Colorado students are right to protest curriculum changes that downplays civil disobedience.
updated 9:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Sally Kohn says when people click on hacked celebrity photos or ISIS videos, they are encouraging the bad guys.
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Loren Bunche says she walked by a homeless man every day and felt bad about it -- until one day she paused to get to know him
updated 9:32 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
ISIS grabs headlines on social media, but hateful speech is no match for moderate voices, says Nadia Oweidat.
updated 8:33 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
A new report counts jihadists fighting globally. The verdict? The threat isn't that big, says Peter Bergen.
updated 5:37 PM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
Ebola could become the biggest humanitarian disaster in a generation, writes former British Prime Minister Tony Blair
updated 12:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
ISIS has shocked the world. But will releasing videos of executions backfire? Four experts give their take.
updated 10:39 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Eric Holder kicked off his stormy tenure as attorney general with a challenge to the public that set tone for six turbulent years as top law-enforcement officer.
updated 9:09 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
LZ Granderson says Obama was elected as a war-ending change agent, not a leader who would leave behind for his successor new engagement in Iraq and Syria. Is he as disappointed as the rest of us?
updated 5:10 AM EDT, Wed September 24, 2014
Gayle Lemmon says the question now is how to translate all the high-profile feminizing into real gains for women
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT