Key Federal Financial Management Terms

Below are some key Federal Financial Management Terms:

  • Authorization: Act of Congress that permits Federal programs or activities to exist and recommends funding levels.
  • Appropriation: Act of Congress to provide Federal agencies with budget authority to obligate government to future outlay of cash for a specific purposes and period of time. 
  • Commitment: An administrative reservation of funds by the financial controller or resource manager triggered by a procurement or purchase request.
  • Obligation: A legal reservation fo funds that binds government to future expenditure and outlay of cash from the Treasury triggered by the signing of a contract, travel order, credit card transaction, etc. 
  • Expenditure: Issuance of a payment disbursement by electronic funds transfer, check, etc. 
  • Outlay: Payment of cash from Treasury to vendor to liquidate a financial obligation.

 

These should be helpful in understanding the Federal

financial management processes. 

 

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Beautiful Currency For A Thriving Modern Nation

Money

So why is our dollar bill so darn green, grimmy, germy, and generally ugly-looking?


I took this photo of a painting of a pretty nicely designed (mock) $2 bill. 


Red, white, and blue–that’s cool. 


Distinct, bold, shiny, and clean–now we’re talking. 


We could have other bills in other color combinations, like Canada does–and it would be befitting to have a nice gold/silver combination for the really big bills.


And how about some modern representation of our republic–our technology, space exploration, medical achievements, advanced manufacturing, military prowess, world philanthropy, etc. 


Also, please-please weave in some antimicrobial agents to protect the people from all the sick germs being spread around on these things. 


If we already need physical currency and won’t accept the transition to credit/debit cards, Apple Pay, and bitcoins, then at least make the dollar bill something to be proud of. 


We’re so worried about whose picture (and gender–okay, it really is time for a women to be honored) is on or off the bill that we forget what the rest of it actually looks like. 


Obsviously with physical money, you need to build in security every which way to Sunday, but it’s still a counterfeiting and money laundering nightmare, and we should be focused on cybersecurity where literally our whole financial system (and democracy) is in peril. 


Who really needs the physical greenback anymore unless your a bad person doing black market, under the table, shady deals anyway–for the rest of us, it’s time to get with digital currency.


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Economics, Pendulum Style

Economics, Pendulum Style

To combat the recession of 2007, the Federal Reserve initiated an aggressive policy of Quantitative Easing–purchasing federal debt en masse to flood demand for Treasuries and lower interest rates to near zero to stimulate the economy.

As of June 2013 the Feds balance sheet has swelled to over $3.4 trillion in assets of treasury debt. What happens when the Treasury has to repay those trillions?

Who is the Treasury going to borrow that money from and at what interest rate?

Just like raising demand for Treasuries lowered interest rates, increasing the supply of Treasury debt to pay back the Federal Reserve will make interest rates go way up the other way.

Rising interest rates makes borrowing more expensive–e.g. buying a car with an auto loan is more expensive, buying a home with a mortgage is more expensive–and inflation can skyrocket.

But what is worse is that despite the recent slowing of the growth of the national debt, many economists calculate the total US debt at a whopping $70 trillion when you include the host of unfunded liabilities including social entitlements such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, as well as government loan guarantees (mortgage, student loan, etc,), deposit insurance (i.e. FDIC(, and the money owed to the Federal Reserve.

What is really sad about this is that the entire wealth of American families in this country is guess what–also $70 trillion–which means that we are essentially a bankrupt nation:

Family assets of $70 trillion – Family liabilities of $70 trillion = a big fat 0 in the kitty!

To pay back the $70 trillion, it is not realistic that we will simply “grow our way out” of this fiscal mess with a GDP growth rate over the last 20 years of a mere 2.6%. Also, we will likely not confiscate people’s assets to pay off the debt, rather we will print money–lots of it–so that we end up paying back the trillions of past debt in much devalued future money.

Heads we win, tails you lose!

The problem is that devaluing the dollar will mean that American family savings will become worth less as well–with the risk, at the extreme, of wiping out mass amounts of savings altogether.

Despite sequestration reducing the rate of our debt growth, the aging baby boomers with the resulting liabilities for their care will soon escalate the debt problem once again.

David Walker, a former U.S. Comptroller has warned about our national debt problem as well as many prominent economists.

Like a pendulum swinging from one extreme to the other, the spendthrift ways of the past will by necessity lead to penny-pinching in the future, and inflation rates of near zero since 2007 will lead to hyperinflation after 2014.

It reminds me of the story of Joseph in the Bible, with the 7 lean years follow the 7 fat years (in Egypt that time)–this is not just providence, but common sense economics.

Good times will come again when there is a return to the mean and the pendulum hovers near center, but the swings until then can be wide and scary.

Of course, like taking your medicine, the earlier we start to course-correct our nation’s finances, the sooner we get healthy again. 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to zzz zzz)