At long last: transparency

J.B. Sivanich

In a surprising step forward from what we have seen in the previous three weeks of Barack Obama’s presidency, the Obama administration has unveiled Recovery.gov, a Web site that aims to keep the contents and spending of the newly passed stimulus package transparent and open to the public.
The front page of the Web site states, “Recovery.gov is a Web site that lets you, the taxpayer, figure out where the money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is going.”
The site is still in the beginning stages of development right now, and it contains a few figures about projected stimulus spending and the entire text of the legislation. A video of President Obama assures that the Web site will grow as the economic stimulus package is put into action and urges the viewer to come back often.
This is the level of governmental transparency that I came to expect over the months of watching Barack Obama campaign. This is a push in the right direction for the Obama administration. I cannot stress enough the importance of transparency in governmental policy.
The government of the United States must be held accountable for its actions, and the only way for this to happen is for the people to exert pressure upon the government. The only way the people can be expected to exert pressure upon the government is if the people have the knowledge of what the government is up to. Transparency initiatives like Recovery.gov allow the people to know.
The key to government transparency is that people use the knowledge that they have to change the governing policies in ways that they see fit. The government giving the people information about policy is a useless endeavor if the people don’t act.
Put into concrete terms, this means that Recovery.gov is useless if people don’t visit often, analyze the use of taxpayers’ money and voice their opinions.
Let me repeat what President Obama says on the front page of the Recovery.gov site: Visit this Web site, visit it often and watch what the government is doing with your money. Look at the use of the stimulus money critically, and if you find something you are not happy with, voice your discontent. It is both the sole purpose of the Web site, and the ultimate goal of governmental transparency.

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