To ease the financially shell-shocked nation’s anxiety about spending $787 billion on a stimulus program, President Barack Obama vowed an unprecedented level of transparency. Instead we got a technically and logistically challenging database that is virtually useless or indecipherable to anyone without expertise in crunching numbers.
To ease the financially shell-shocked nation’s anxiety about spending $787 billion on a stimulus program, President Barack Obama last year made a bold promise. He vowed an unprecedented level of transparency that would allow any interested citizen to follow every dollar of stimulus money as it was spent.
Instead we got a technically and logistically challenging database that is virtually useless or indecipherable to anyone without expertise in crunching numbers.
What’s worse is that when asked for an explanation as to why the reality has fallen so far short of the promise, leaders in the best position to rectify the matter either duck the question or deflect the blame.
The office of Vice President Joe Biden, who Obama named as his stimulus czar, said he would not reply.
A spokesman for U.S. Sen. Scott Brown said, “We are going to pass on this one.”
U.S. Sen. John Kerry’s office was unable to provide a response for nearly two weeks, and when it finally arranged for us to interview the senator, he missed the appointment.
Even when a response was received, the message was wrong.
U.S. Rep. William Delahunt essentially said it wasn’t the government’s responsibility to decipher the information for general consumption.
“To be candid, I think in many ways, it’s partially the responsibility of the media to inform,” he said.
An Obama administration official said the same thing, explaining that the downloadable documents on recovery.gov are posted for journalists and watchdog groups to analyze.
The one reasoned response we got was from U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch.
“It’s not just transparency,” he said. “You can put the numbers out there, but if they’re not usable and they are presented in a very complex way, it doesn’t help.”
We would be more understanding if government leaders explained the situation by saying the stimulus program is a massive undertaking and that producing easily digestible data takes time.
But to duck the question and the responsibility – especially after making such a show of commitment – is unacceptable.
The Patriot Ledger