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
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1305 GMT (2105 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1149 GMT (1949 HKT)
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1723 GMT (0123 HKT)
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1938 GMT (0338 HKT)
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 04: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell walks the sidelines prior to the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field on September 4, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Martha Pease says the NFL commissioner shouldn't be judge and jury on player wrongdoing.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1315 GMT (2115 HKT)
It's time for a much needed public reckoning over U.S. use of torture, argues Donald P. Gregg.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1225 GMT (2025 HKT)
Peter Bergen says UK officials know the identity of the man who killed U.S. journalists and a British aid worker.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1128 GMT (1928 HKT)
Joe Torre and Esta Soler say much has been achieved since a landmark anti-violence law was passed.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2055 GMT (0455 HKT)
David Wheeler wonders: If Scotland votes to secede, can America take its place and rejoin England?
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1241 GMT (2041 HKT)
Jane Stoever: Society must grapple with a culture in which 1 in 3 teen girls and women suffer partner violence.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2036 GMT (0436 HKT)
World-famous physicist Stephen Hawking recently said the world as we know it could be obliterated instantaneously. Meg Urry says fear not.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2211 GMT (0611 HKT)
Bill Clinton's speech accepting the Democratic nomination for president in 1992 went through 22 drafts. But he always insisted on including a call to service.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2218 GMT (0618 HKT)
Joe Amon asks: What turns a few cases of disease into thousands?
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 1721 GMT (0121 HKT)
Sally Kohn says bombing ISIS will worsen instability in Iraq and strengthen radical ideology in terrorist groups.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 2231 GMT (0631 HKT)
Analysts weigh in on the president's plans for addressing the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 1327 GMT (2127 HKT)
Artist Prune Nourry's project reinterprets the terracotta warriors in an exhibition about gender preference in China.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
The Apple Watch is on its way. Jeff Yang asks: Are we ready to embrace wearables technology at last?
ADVERTISEMENT