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Honest Finances Amendment

A proposed amendment to the US Constitution that promotes transparency and prudence in the management of our national finances.

Highlights

  • Mandates transparency of every claim on the Federal Purse by applying them to the Discipline of the National Budget

  • Provides automatic Continuing Resolutions

  • Endorses the Balanced Budget Amendment

  • Summary of the Amendment

 

Stopping Budget End Runs

Profligate spending is the Achilles heel of a democracy, and we must compel a much-needed focus on our national financial capabilities and priorities. The process of setting priorities is one of the most difficult tasks of government, but it is a key to effective governance. To do it successfully, all requests for benefits from the government must be submitted to the discipline and transparency of the annual budget.

In addition to direct appropriations, Congress uses a sleight-of-hand to grant financial favors to groups without funding them in the budget: it grants subsidies as credits and deductions under the tax code. This allows Congress to dispense favors without prioritizing them with the many other issues competing for federal funding. This amendment will end that practice; it will impose discipline on our financial practices.

The Balanced Budget Amendment

For decades, we have been promising generous future retirement benefits to public employees and operating the Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid programs without sufficient regard for the solvency of the country. However, our moment of reckoning is fast approaching: the federal government has accumulated off-budget unfunded liabilities estimated at more than $100 trillion, and we have no hope of having the resources to satisfy these obligations as they come due if we do not take action. Federal officials of both major parties have repeatedly refused to acknowledge and resolve this huge financial burden, leaving it to our children and future generations to resolve. This has been called the greatest intergenerational wealth transfer in the history of the world, and it is perhaps the greatest failing of our democratic republic.

The granddaddy of citizen-led financial reforms is referred to as the Balanced Budget Amendment. Here are topics we believe that the BBA addresses:

  • Balanced Budget

  • Federal Debt Limit

  • Off-Budget, Unfunded Liabilities             

 

Act 2 supports the BBA effort, but offers its financial reforms for consideration regardless of whether the BBA proposals are advanced.

 

Summary of the Amendment

Transparency

We propose that all claims on the federal purse must be presented for public view in the annual budget exercise and funded by budget appropriations, including but not limited to:

  • All planned cash expenditures and subsidy grants shall be listed in the budget, which Congress shall present to the president at least sixty (60) days before the start of the federal fiscal year; it shall cover ten (10) years, with the first two (2) years in traditional detail.

  • All employee retirement plans of the government of the United States, all insurance-type programs of this government, and all commitments for future expenditures shall be reported on an actuarially sound basis and shall be fully funded in the budget in accordance with best accounting practices, similar to those required of publicly owned corporations.

  • Targeted individual and corporate income tax credits and deductions shall be reauthorized annually in the federal budget. Targeted credits and deductions are those that benefit only special interests and are not freely available to members of the general public. This will force Congress to review and prioritize these subsidies annually with other federal expenditures, which is the proper forum for evaluating them.

 

Continuing Resolutions

Because a functioning budget is critical to most of the work of the federal government if Congress fails to fulfill its constitutional responsibility to deliver a timely budget to the president, or the president vetoes the budget submitted, during the coming fiscal year an automatic continuing resolution shall fund federal activities at the aggregate total of five percent (5%) less than the total of the previous year, and shall be continued (until resolved) with annual reductions of the same amount.

Author: Frank Keeney

Revised August 25, 2021

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A Convention of States

Every honest voice for reform should be heard and respected, with the best ideas selected for submission to the states for possible ratification. 

Statue of Liberty

Socialism or Freedom

The last 200 years have given us a ring-side seat at the workings of a number of different government forms. When we evaluate them, we do not need to rely on theory; we can observe the actual positive and negative results.

Numbers Game

Term Limits

Just as was done with the Executive Branch, we must now apply term limits to the judicial and legislative branches of the federal government.