A noted expert on the nation's debt explains why the U.S. government should use more modern accounting methods.
In Hamilton's Blessing: The Extraordinary Life and Times of Our National Debt, John Steele Gordon suggests the U.S. government tap modern accounting methods to increase accountability:
"Virtually all federal accounting is still oriented towards preventing fraud and theft, not towards controlling costs....The government makes no attempt to determine even so basic a measure of efficiency as the overhead of any of its vast array of departments, bureaus, and agencies. And the United States Government, the largest fiscal entity on earth, still doesn't use double-entry bookkeeping. It keeps its books the way you and I keep our checkbooks.... No one would argue that the books of a sovereign power can be kept like those of a profit-seeking corporation. There is no quantifying the value of Yellowstone National Park, or objectively determining the worth of foreign aid....But the books should be kept consistently and in ways that illuminate, not obscure, the true picture; reveal, not conceal, if the managers have succeeded or failed in their jobs."