Skip to main content

How U.S. can budget for future

By John Thune and Tim Kaine, Special to CNN
July 24, 2013 -- Updated 1511 GMT (2311 HKT)
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
December 29, 2014 -- Updated 0430 GMT (1230 HKT)
Les Abend: Before we reach a conclusion on the outcome of AirAsia Flight QZ8501, it's important to understand that the details are far too limited to draw a parallel to Flight 370
December 27, 2014 -- Updated 0127 GMT (0927 HKT)
The ability to manipulate media and technology has increasingly become a critical strategic resource, says Jeff Yang.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1617 GMT (0017 HKT)
Today's politicians should follow Ronald Reagan's advice and invest in science, research and development, Fareed Zakaria says.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Artificial intelligence does not need to be malevolent to be catastrophically dangerous to humanity, writes Greg Scoblete.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1505 GMT (2305 HKT)
Historian Douglas Brinkley says a showing of Sony's film in Austin helped keep the city weird -- and spotlighted the heroes who stood up for free expression
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Tanya Odom that by calling only on women at his press conference, the President made clear why women and people of color should be more visible in boardrooms and conferences
December 27, 2014 -- Updated 2327 GMT (0727 HKT)
When oil spills happen, researchers are faced with the difficult choice of whether to use chemical dispersants, authors say
December 25, 2014 -- Updated 0633 GMT (1433 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2312 GMT (0712 HKT)
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0335 GMT (1135 HKT)
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1257 GMT (2057 HKT)
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 0429 GMT (1229 HKT)
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2115 GMT (0515 HKT)
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1811 GMT (0211 HKT)
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1808 GMT (0208 HKT)
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 2019 GMT (0419 HKT)
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 2239 GMT (0639 HKT)
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 0112 GMT (0912 HKT)
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1709 GMT (0109 HKT)
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2345 GMT (0745 HKT)
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 2134 GMT (0534 HKT)
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
ADVERTISEMENT