Serious financial accounting needed

/ 21 December 2007

Scott Horton is right, you won’t read about this story in any of our major news outlets. That’s shameful. As the US Government Accountability Office reports:

"For the 11th year in a row, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) was prevented from expressing an opinion on the consolidated financial statements of the U.S. government–other than the Statement of Social Insurance–because of serious material weaknesses affecting financial systems, fundamental recordkeeping, and financial reporting."

David Walker, the Comptroller General of the US notes:

“Until the problems outlined in our audit report are adequately addressed, they will continue to have adverse implications for the federal government and American taxpayers,” Walker said in a letter to the President and Congress. “The federal government’s fiscal exposures totaled approximately $53 trillion as of September 30, 2007, up more than $2 trillion from September 30, 2006, and an increase of more than $32 trillion from about $20 trillion as of September 30, 2000,” Walker said. “This translates into a current burden of about $175,000 per American or approximately $455,000 per American household.”

$455,000 per household. I don't know about you, but that's more money than I could make over many years! And I need something to spend on food, shelter, transportation and medical care. Something is seriously awry when our government incurs these kinds of obligations, and then refuses to explain how or why or what they intend to do about it, and meanwhile the very rich keep getting richer, and all the rest of us worry more and find it harder and harder to pay our bills and stay healthy.

There's all sorts of talk in seminary circles about helping our students learn how to support and practice good stewardship. Mostly that's about raising funds in church settings and spending those funds wisely. But what are we teaching -- or not! -- our students about common obligations, and the common good, and helping their congregations learn how to think about, and advocate on behalf of, appropriate government stewardship?