Sheila's Reflections

What is fraud and are government officials committing it? Part I

May 10, 2021

Includes "I am an accountant, not an attorney, so I am no expert on what is or isn’t fraud. But when I hear elected officials make misleading public comments about their government’s finances I often wonder if they are committing fraud."

A trillion here, a trillion there: Whatever the amount, it is spinning too fast

April 15, 2021

Includes "Now that our calculations for our Financial State of the Union are complete, which are based upon information in the recently released Financial Report of the U.S. Government (FRUSG) for fiscal year ended September 30, 2020, we have found that we need to adjust our debt clock. The good news is the clock “true debt” decreased."

We need a real fix for Social Security

March 9, 2021

Includes "Congress has not figured out where the money will come from to pay $44 trillion worth of promised Social Security benefits over the next 75 years. In other words, the Social Security program has a long-term cash shortage, which can only be fixed one of two ways: bring more money in or take less money out."

Illinois budget gimmicks continue; we have an opportunity to fix them!

February 17, 2021

Includes "Today in his budget address, Gov. J. B. Pritzker claimed he has once again balanced the budget. Yet Truth in Accounting calculated that the state needs more than $226 billion to pay its bills, which does not include pandemic-related expenses."

National debt grew 39 percent under Trump

January 19, 2021

Includes "As Trump ends his term as President of the United States, he leaves behind quite the legacy. Included in his legacy will be a $7.7 trillion increase in the national debt, which amounts to almost $24,000 per person. This represents a 39 percent increase." 

Citizens deserve the truth about government finances

December 18, 2020

Includes "At a time when state and local governments have to make tough choices due to COVID-related budget shortfalls and the federal government is contemplating more aid in another stimulus package, citizens deserve to know the extent of their governments’ financial troubles now more than ever."

Illinois' and Chicago's budget gimmicks

October 21, 2020

Includes "This year every city and state in America is struggling with acute fiscal shortfalls. Illinois estimated a budget deficit of $6 billion and Chicago’s budget deficit is expected to be $2 billion."

Eleven years of the Financial State of the States

October 5, 2020

Includes "Last month, Truth in Accounting released the eleventh edition of our flagship Financial State of the States report. I cannot believe it's been 11 years since we began this endeavor to bring citizens truthful and timely government financial information..."

Summary of special briefing on how cities and counties are coping with COVID-19’s fiscal shock

July 22, 2020

Includes "On Thursday, July 16, I listened to a Special Briefing on How Cities and Counties are Coping with COVID-19’s Fiscal Shock hosted by The Volcker Alliance and Penn Institute for Urban Research (IUR)..."

Summary of special briefing on COVID-19: Unemployment, and state and local fiscal consequences

June 26, 2020

Includes "On Thursday, June 25, I listened to a Special Briefing on COVID-19: Unemployment, and State and Local Fiscal Consequences. It was co-hosted by The Volcker Alliance and Penn Institute for Urban Research."

Preparing for a rainy day

June 10, 2020

Includes "Economic shocks like the one we’re facing right now, by definition, do not give much notice. And while the emergence of COVID-19 and the extended lockdown was not on any state legislature’s or governor’s radar at the start of this year, the economic disruptions of the last several decades should have given states an incentive to be fiscally prepared."

Truth in Accounting's conditions on federal aid to state and local governments

May 14, 2020

Includes "Any aid package should require state and local governments to develop fiscal stability plans that would address financial imbalances before the crisis arrived, and take steps to ensure governments are financially prepared for future crises."

Debt hose is on full blast

May 7, 2020

Includes "Today I realized that our debt clock was moving too slowly. I had to increase the debt clock by hundreds of billions to match how much the Treasury is currently borrowing. In April, the reported debt increased by $1.2 trillion dollars to almost $25 trillion."

Federal Reserve loans will set governments back

April 17, 2020

Includes "The Federal Reserve loans will financially set these governments further back for a long time, if not forever. To pay back this new debt, governments will have to run true surpluses. Before the current crisis, only ten of the states had run annual surpluses that have enabled them to amass money available to pay future bills."

My takeaways from Gov. Pritzker's budget address

February 19, 2020

Includes "Gov. Pritzker says the budget will fully fund the statutory contributions to the pension plans. These statutory contributions woefully underfund the plans. Last year, the state shorted the plans by more than $4 billion using this funding scheme, which has been called a balloon payment on steroids."

What about the debt?

February 12, 2020

Includes "President Trump’s budget simply looks at revenues and expenditures for fiscal year 2021. It does not include the Social Security and Medicare benefits that workers have been promised and are earning now." 

A response to the city of Phoenix's 'invalid' claim

February 10, 2020

Includes "Pension debt is similar to credit card debt, not a mortgage, because it is debt accumulated to cover costs that have already been incurred. Evidently Phoenix has a plan to pay the pension debt off over the next 22 years, but this does not negate the fact that this debt exists today. To explain this concept on a personal level, someone who plans to pay off a credit card balance over time by paying the minimum payments still has outstanding credit card debt now."

Fed Chairman to empty Senate hearing: ‘National debt growing faster than economy’

December 17, 2019

Includes "'The debt is growing faster than the economy, it is as simple as that in nominal terms, and that is the definition of unsustainable,' Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell warned the Joint Economic Committee on November 13, 2019."

Pensions are a present obligation

December 12, 2019

Includes "Private companies must report and fund their employees’ pension plans as benefits are earned. So why are governments held to a different standard?"

My statement on Illinois' late report

August 28, 2019

Includes, "Today I received an email from Frank Mautino, Illinois Auditor General, announcing that he will be releasing the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) tomorrow, Thursday, August 29, 2019, at 10:00 a.m. CT. This audited report provides citizens with the best financial information issued by the state, such as the amount of unfunded pension and other retirement promises."

Illinois constitutional amendment needed - Part 1

May 9, 2019

Includes "Illinois lawmakers and voters are in the process of amending the state constitution to allow for a progressive income tax. Springfield is looking for more revenue because lawmakers habitually spend more than the state takes in." 

Are government officials more important than taxpayers?

March 14, 2019

Includes "The GASB was established as an independent board whose mission is to 'educate stakeholders on how to most effectively understand and implement [accounting] standards.' Citizens and taxpayers are the greatest stakeholders in a government’s financial reports. So why is the GASB seemingly on the side of government officials?"

Why 2018 has been the best year yet at TIA

December 19, 2018

Includes "As my Facebook friends know, I post my 'good news of the day.' With the focus of my work being government budgeting and accounting—where the federal debt is now more than $100 trillion and states’ debt more than $1.5 trillion—you would think there isn’t much good news to report. But I believe everyone can find something good in all situations.

There's a lot to grateful for this year

November 20, 2018

Includes "On July 16—after spending too much time on Facebook and reading so many negative posts—I decided to start posting my 'good news of the day' update and asking my friends to share their good news. As Thanksgiving approaches and I look back at my posts, I realize I have been putting together the things I am thankful to have in my life."

Who will watch the watchmen?

November 15, 2018

Includes "Many taxpayers and voters would be surprised to learn that this is not the case for the state governments that manage their tax dollars. Each year, states issue financial report cards to their citizens in the form of a comprehensive annual financial reports (CAFR.) After analyzing all 50 of these complex documents, only 15 state governments used outside audit firms to double check their work."

Responding to common questions, criticisms about our work

October 22, 2018

Includes "Truth in Accounting’s grading system is rooted in our holistic perspective on government finance.  Our grade is based upon the government’s overall financial condition. We care about the big picture and the risk to the taxpayers."

Blame game: Why this accounting rule should be praised, not criticized

May 23, 2018

Includes "... saying this accounting standard is the reason for the hospital’s poor financial condition is like blaming your credit card company for your bad credit score while you have a huge outstanding balance on your account."

This state lawmaker gets government finance

March 21, 2018

Includes "Kudos to California state Sen. John Moorlach for his understanding of government finances and how to determine the true fiscal condition of a government."

Reflections on International Women's Day

March 8, 2018

Includes "One of the goals of International Women’s Day is to empower women. I believe we should work to empower everyone."

Will Trump address the financial state of the union?

January 29, 2018

Includes "Despite the bankruptcy of a few of your companies, because you are a successful businessman, I assume you understand the importance of a company’s finances."

A rebuttal to Delaware treasurer's 'misleading' claim 

October 16, 2017

Includes "In our analysis of state governments’ financial condition, we calculate 'money needed to pay bills.'"

Highlights of Chicago's Municipal Employees' Annuity and Benefit Fund

August 21, 2017

Includes "If you are into horror movies and like to be scared, take a look at the actuarial valuation of Chicago’s Municipal Employees' Annuity and Benefit Fund (MEABF)."

Social Security: TIA checks the facts

August 17, 2017

Includes "In response to our Social Security videos, I have compiled a list of references we used for the video and my interpretations of the material."

My Opening Remarks at the Illinois Issues Forum

August 10, 2017

Includes "I was invited to be a panelist at the Illinois Issues forum entitied "State Budget: The Challenges Ahead", hosted by the Union League Club of Chicago, NPR Illinois, and AARP."

My invitation to comment at GASB

June 15, 2017

Includes "I was invited to comment on a proposed GASB standard change regarding the accounting for special funds. Here is my testimony to the board."

What exactly is a special fund?

June 9, 2017

Includes, "Illinois has some very unusual special funds, such as..." 

Suspension of the debt ceiling

May 31, 2017

Includes, "The federal government’s debt is no longer increasing. This sounds like great news. The government isn’t borrowing any more money. But don’t get your emotions too high."

Congressman Brad Schneider hosts a federal budget workshop

April 12, 2017

Includes "This is why I am excited to announce the Concord Coalition and my Congressman, Brad Schneider, are hosting a federal budget workshop at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, April 17 at Lake Forest College. Space is limited due to the workshop format."

Better late than never

March 7, 2017

Includes "Yesterday Illinois State Comptroller Susana A. Mendoza finally released the state’s fiscal year 2016 financial report. This was 251 days after the fiscal year end, which is considered late even under the loose government standard of 180 days. More than 30 states had released their reports before Illinois."

Our national debt: one veteran's view

September 19, 2016

Guest post by H. Lee Fisher, includes "The risks posed by our national debt places this nation in self-destruct mode. Our politicians can continue to manipulate accounting records and conceal our real debt..."

Illinois Teachers Retirement System underfunding equals 679% of covered payroll.

August 12, 2016

If instead of paying Illinois teachers for the next six and half years, their salaries were diverted to their pension plan, there still won't be enough money to cover all promised benefits.

Illinois transportation lockbox

July 21, 2016

Includes, "The amendment is an attempt at circumventing some of the accounting gimmicks used to balance the state budget."

When will Illinois' finances come to a head? 

June 16, 2016

Includes, "When will the governor and legislators come to their senses? When the state can't borrow any more money any more."

FASAB's creative accounting

April 28, 2016

Includes, "Did you know that the federal government does not follow the same accounting standards that they require major corporations to follow?"

The creditor's plight 

April 26, 2016 

Guest blog post by William Glasgall. He is director of state and local programs at the Volcker Alliance in New York.

Are vendors and nonprofits de facto creditors to Illinois? 

April 20, 2016 

With Leslie Munger's delayed payments to state officials, office holders have joined the ranks of de facto creditors to the state. 

Illinois budget: defining & funding the essential priorities recap

April 13, 2016

My recap on Monday's event that we co-hosted with the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform 

Illinois finally releases its audited financial report

April 12, 2016

My thoughts on the state's recently released financial report. 

TIA focuses on the numbers, rather than solutions

February 17, 2016

My response to a Facebook comment regarding Gov. Rauner’s 2017 budget address today.

Governor Brown's State of the State

January 1, 2016

Includes, "Yesterday I listened to Governor Jerry Brown’s State of the State with an ear out for the true financial state of California."

The State of the Union

January 14, 2016

Includes, "The federal government is the largest financial institution in the world, yet the President did not discuss our financial position."

It's not just an accounting thing 

December 3, 2015

Includes, "State and Local Governments' Balance Sheets Are About to Explode"

Can the US government gobble up $339 billion in one day?

November 5, 2015

Includes "At the same time Americans guzzled on Halloween candy, the federal government gorged on debt..."

Six Social Security myths and truths

October 30, 2015

Includes "Governor Christie is correct, politicians and government officials have created many myths about Social Security and Medicare..."

What is a surplus?

October 28, 2015

Includes "Watch out when government officials tell you they have a surplus..."

Two doomsday scenarios

October 14, 2015

Includes "there are two possible nightmare scenarios for America's financial future...