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Transparency is neither hard nor expensive. Nebraska recently created a budget website giving taxpayers an easy way to track where the state's money is going. After much howling about the expensiveness of the site, in the end it cost the state a mere $38,000. And when it comes to tracking stimulus spending, the private sector is doing it for free. Onvia, a company that matches contractors with government needs, has already launched Recovery.org, a free, searchable database of stimulus projects. (Go here for a Reason.tv video with Onvia's CEO.)
If President Obama means what he says about transparency, he will demand that governors, mayors, city executives, and grantees be required to account for every dime that comes into their hands. And he'll do so now, not in a year. Until American taxpayers are provided detailed information at every stage of the stimulus process, we can only assume the worst.
Veronique de Rugy and Eileen Norcross are economists at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.