We all know the federal government is in debt, and that pile of IOUs gets bigger every day. All that red ink is embarrassing, even to the most jaded pols. One way they get around that embarrassment, and look somewhat responsible to the folks back home, is cooking the cooks.

As John Steele Gordon writes, one way to stop such shenanigan might be auditing Uncle Sam’s books in much the same way accountants do for private sector businesses:

One justification for the Federal Reserve is to keep the power to print money out of the hands of politicians. A Federal Accounting Board would keep the power to cook the books out of their hands as well. Like the Fed, it would be run by a board of seven members, all professional accountants of long experience, serving 14-year terms. They could be removed only for cause. One member would be appointed chairman, serving a four-year term.

The board would take over the duties of the Congressional Budget Office, and the White House Office of Management and Budget would be reduced to formulating the annual budget. The board would estimate future revenue and the costs of all legislation. It would also set the rules for how the federal books must be kept (no calling borrowed money “income”), and would determine if they are accurate and complete, as a CPA does for corporate books.

It’s a sensible proposal…which means politicians of both major parties will refuse to do anything like it. Unless voters demand something like a Federal Accounting Board, that is. One with the power to actually stop the books from getting roasted again and again.