COMMENTARY By FRANK KEEGAN
Here is a great non-negotiable demand for college-educated Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protesters to put at the top of their list: Get your money back plus damages! One entry to their Wiki proves their ignorance of civics and economics so profound and fundamental, it mandates redress. Your colleges and universities ripped you off, people.
We have Generation X and Generation Y. Let’s call the next one Generation Z — for Zero — because that is the chance they have of ever paying off debt being dumped on them by local, state and federal politicians.
Zero also is a good measure for their current comprehension of this intergenerational crime.
Consider the recent “action” update proving these encamped activists have no clue about who foreclosed their futures and indentured them for life.
In The American People’s New Economic Charter to change “Catastrophic Economic Policy,” they demand:
“Fully audit the Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports and consider distribution to the People
Audit the estimated 184,000 Federal, State, and local Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFRs), with an aim to discover the true total assets of the country, and then to determine the best use for the people to the people. Give priority to spending the CAFR money over taxation or borrowing. If there is a surplus, return it to the citizens as a rightful dividend.
There are 10s of trillions, possibly over a hundred trillion, in the 184,000 CAFRS throughout the country. No other reform has the potential to unlock as much potential money as this.”
They are dead right about auditing annual reports because, as they proclaim, “the American people need to be better informed and united in our exercise of democracy.”
Problem is OWS suffers from fiscal dyslexia. CAFRs show assets but hide most liabilities.
They are annual reports, filed on average about 18 months late, politicians and public union bosses use to lie to taxpayers, public workers and investors about how much debt they are inflicting on future generations.
This allows a few to enrich themselves — they are among the 1 percent — and flee the scene of their frauds before the bills come due.
One person who has been demanding honesty for a decade is Sheila Weinberg, who founded The Institute for Truth in Accounting.
“The Mission of the Institute is … to compel government to produce financial reports that are understandable, reliable, transparent and correct … (It) actively seeks association with other public interest groups that recognize the need to improve financial reporting ….,” according to its website.
Using standard instead of government accounting, Weinberg calculates the trillions of dollars OWS believes are in “CAFRs throughout the country,” actually are hidden as debt the next two or three generations must pay.
She puts the total this minute at almost $76 trillion, $247,000 per person. That’s $61 trillion higher than politicians admit and growing at more than $100,000 a second.
The institute is pushing Truth in Accounting legislation to force at least a measure of honesty. OWS must get behind it.
Another natural ally OWS activists should seek out is fellow Wiki Sunshine Review, founded in 2008 to bring “State and Local Government to Light.”
According to the website, “Sunshine Review is about state and local government transparency, engaged citizens, and holding government officials accountable.”
If OWS wants to act, there is State Budget Solutions, which offers “REAL Solutions for REAL Budget Problems,” according to its website.
“The State Budget Solutions Project is non-partisan, positive, pro-reform, proactive and anchored in fundamental-systemic solutions. The goal is to successfully engage political journalists/bloggers, state officials and opinion leaders in a new way of thinking about state government and budgets, fundamental reforms, transparency and accountability,” according to its website.
Founded last year to promote “reality-based budgeting as the best way to design sustainable, responsible budgets from the ground up …,” SBS “disseminates information about every aspect of coming fiscal and economic disasters and … highlights fundamental reforms to avoid them.”
Any of this sound familiar, OWS? It should.
Unfortunately, Truth in Accounting, Sunshine Review and State Budget Solutions activists are downright misty-eyed optimists about how dire the economic catastrophe really is.
They accept a lot of official false assumptions, estimates and accounting practices used in those CAFRs to fool the people, public employees and suckers buying municipal bonds.
The actual hidden debt is much higher. For state and municipal governments alone, it’s at least $9.9 trillion as of 2008, according to the Government Accountability Office. GAO says states and municipalities are in for 50 years of deep cuts, best case.
Worst case? My estimate is $18 trillion as of 2009, with more than 50 years of even deeper cuts.
As for the true federal deficit, Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare alone are long-term obligations trillions of dollars bigger than politicians admit.
And federal employee pensions systems have hidden deficits future generations of taxpayers must fund.
Even the omniscient CIA, which refuses to confirm or deny it because of “national security,” is reported to be $6.4 billion in the pension hole.
Little of this local, state and federal debt shows up in any government CAFR, and what does show up consists of lies buried a hundred pages deep, below the bottom line.
These annual reports are agents of deception.
However, there is an official movement to force progress toward more honest accounting.
The Government Accounting Standards Board proposes minor changes to its voluntary rules on how those who seize and squander taxpayer money report to the people.
Guess who is fighting this transparency and openness? The very politicians and public union bosses who claim to support OWS.
If OWS activists really want to get in touch with reality and occupy something that matters, they must set up camp at GASB, 401 Merritt 7, Norwalk, CT 06856, and force honest accounting from the people who truly screwed their future.
Frank Keegan is a national editor for The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, watchdog.org and statehousenewsonline.com . Any disgusted public employee, journalist, activist organization or citizen watchdog who wants help exposing government waste, fraud and abuse may contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
For a comprehensive primer on state and municipal government pensions, Pensiontsunami.com. The state of Montana has set up a website with pension information at: http://leg.mt.gov/css/fiscal/Pensions.asp.