The Fiscal Cliff: Debating in the Dark?
Why has the Treasury Department changed the date of a forthcoming economic report so that it will come out after Congress has debated the fiscal cliff? Will Congress be debating about the fiscal cliff in the dark?
The fiscal cliff isn’t a cliff, but many people believe the impending improvement in the government’s fiscal situation will harm the economy. It’s a “looming fiscal crisis that could send the entire US economy plunging into recession again,” according to typically over-dramatic language from AFP. Belief drives economies, so talk like that can be self-fulfilling prophecy.
But just how is the economy doing? One way to find out would be to look at the Financial Report of the United States Government. It’s a comprehensive overview of the federal government’s finances, and it comes out every year on December 15th. (See where it says “Next Report” on these archived pages? 2011, 2010)
But recently the Treasury Department’s Financial Management Service quietly changed the date of publication for this information to January 17, 2013. That’ll be after the “fiscal cliff” debate is over. It’ll be around the time that a new Congress comes in.
What is in the report? Why did they delay its publication? In a special alert to subscribers earlier this month, watchdog Shadow Government Statistics asks:
Might someone have had a concern here of inflaming what already are likely to be highly contentious, and down-to-the-wire, year-end negotiations, with meaningfully new negative information?
It’s certainly possible that Treasury is just behind on producing the report, but even if they’re not hiding information, it’s not OK to be late with an important report at such a crucial time.
Interesting problem, here: The government is the best source of information about the government. The government can shade or shut down information flows at key times. It’s concerning if they’re doing so now.
What do you do about a confounding situation like this? Raise an outcry!
That means letting your friends and neighbors know. Email this blog post to interested people. Post it on Facebook. (You can “like” our page if you’re inclined.) Tweet it, too, with your comments.
Nobody’s going to do it for you. If you push this story, the Treasury Department will figure out that they’ve made a mistake in delaying this report, and they’ll be less likely to keep a debate in the dark again.