Economics

Show Me the Money

Obama should push for online stimulus transparency

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House Democrats have put forth an $825 billion stimulus package in an ambitious plan aimed at stimulating the economy. But before spending any more money, Congress and newly inaugurated President Barack Obama should offer a detailed account of the vast sums of bailout dollars already doled out by the Bush administration over the last few months. Incredibly enough, no one really knows precisely how much Washington has already committed or handed out—let alone to whom and for what purposes.

In July 2007, Mr. Obama signed Reason Foundation's Oath of Presidential Transparency, pledging his commitment to "open, transparent, and accountable government principles."

"Every American has the right to know how the government spends their tax dollars, but for too long that information has been largely hidden from public view," said then Sen. Obama. "This historic law will lift the veil of secrecy in Washington and ensure that our government is transparent and accountable to the American people."

If his promise for transparency was important then, it is even more critical now in the wake of Uncle Sam's recent spending binge.

Mr. Obama should press for a complete, itemized—and publicly available—list of how much money taxpayers are already on the hook for to bailout failing entities. There are so many different bailout-related programs—TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program), Federal Reserve programs, auto bailouts, and investment guarantees—that we don't have a firm dollar figure. No one knows exactly what to count. Different sources have given different estimates that vary by as much as $1 trillion or so. The New York Times, in December, calculated bailout spending to be $7.8 trillion. CNBC thinks it is about $7.3 trillion. If you count all the taxpayer money spent in 2008 on bailouts, including the $150 billion stimulus in the spring of 2008 and the early bank rescues, such as IndyMac, the figure rises to over $8.4 trillion.

During the campaign, Mr. Obama talked about "putting the government online" and he has already announced a website for stimulus spending—www.Recovery.gov.

"We plan to create a Web site that will contain information about the contracts and include PDFs or contracts themselves and also financial information about the contracts," Peter Orzag, Obama's choice to lead the Office of Management and Budget, encouragingly told The Washington Post.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), one of Mr. Obama's most boisterous supporters, recently told Time magazine that taxpayers are demanding accountability. "I call it the grocery-store test: How many aisles can I get down the grocery store without someone yelling at me?" said McCaskill. "I couldn't even get to the produce section at the front of the store before people started screaming at me about the TARP. If we can't get transparency for taxpayers on this, it's going to be difficult to get my vote [on the stimulus package]."

But President Obama and Congress should not limit transparency to just the stimulus spending or even TARP—everything should be on the table.

The Treasury Department—in association with the Federal Reserve and FDIC—should create an "online checkbook" showing how many checks it has written, when they are cashed, and offer detailed notes about what they paid for. The government should also list who it has loaned money to, what has been paid back, and how much interest it has earned. Ultimately, the key is simplicity and clarity.

Neel Kashkari, interim assistant Treasury Secretary for financial stability and one of the people theoretically in charge of the bailout money, has told the House Financial Services Committee that he is directing his staff to establish a formal monitoring program to track TARP dollars. But with the Bush administration and Congress having failed to provide accountability for the bailout spending thus far, it will be up to the Obama administration to halt the government's policy of handing out taxpayer money first and asking questions later, if ever.

The lack of accountability thus far should be unacceptable to the taxpayers who have had trillions spent in their name. With talk that the upcoming stimulus package may grow beyond $825 billion, taxpayers now, more than ever, need President Obama to lead the charge for transparency and accountability.

Anthony Randazzo is a policy analyst at Reason Foundation. An archive of his work is here. This article originally appeared at Reason.org.

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  1. That would indeed be CHANGE. But CHANGE YOU CAN BELIEVE IN? No.

    1. I have been following you blog for quite some time now?..I just wanted to say how excited and happy I am for you. I can’t wait to see what you come up with.

    2. Great job here. I really enjoyed what you had to say. Keep going because you definitely bring a new voice to this subject. Not many people would say what youve said and still make it interesting. Well, at least Im interested. Cant wait to see more of this from you.

  2. Fuck transparency. You think we’re giving away a trillion fucking dollars and not getting anything in return? Fuck that shit.

    Fuck shit fuckety-shit damnfuck shit.

  3. have you been to the treasury website and looked at their reports? they list where every dollar is spent, to which companies, and for what assets/securities.

  4. They’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dirty dealing’s done.

  5. Though its only for tracking TARP funds, I find this page quite useful:

    http://www.propublica.org/special/show-me-the-tarp-money

  6. have you been to the treasury website and looked at their reports? they list where every dollar is spent, to which companies, and for what assets/securities.

    The TARP money is all accounted for. The confusion lies in the Fed’s $2 trillion of WD-40ish machinations.

    Obama also restored the FOIA today. And he kicked the lobbyists in their nuts – now we need a Congressional anti-lobbyist bill.

    Change? Fuck yes. For one day at least.

  7. have you been to the treasury website and looked at their reports? they list where every dollar is spent, to which companies, and for what assets/securities.

    You know what’s helpful in evaluating statements like that? Links.

  8. Marc – propublica.org lists all the TARP whores and keeps it up to date.

  9. Shrike,

    The other “wd40ish” machinations fall within the normal purview of monetary policy operations – albiet operations which are only appropriate in circumstances like those we are in now. Despite Fox News’ lawsuit, it’s not clear that these should fall under the FOIA.

  10. We should all thank our lucky stars that yoiu asswipe right wingers never relized your plot to privatize social security. Shove the rest of you market fundamentalist ideology up your fat asses.

  11. you’re right, we’ll just have to eliminate it instead…

  12. Barack Obama should offer a detailed account
    of the vast sums of bailout dollars already doled out

    Wouldn’t this statement assume that he (or anybody) actually understands “the vast sums”?
    Does any actual human believe that President Obama* has the wherewithal to address these arcane and opaque expenditures?

    *It still sounds strange and otherworldly, doesn’t it?

  13. Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait…are you telling me that the entire “We don’t know where the TARP money went” story is bullshit?

  14. “*It still sounds strange and otherworldly, doesn’t it?”

    It’s strange just to say “President [other name than Bush or Clinton]”. It’s been twenty years.

  15. It still sounds strange and otherworldly, doesn’t it?

    Since Senator Obama sounds like the name of a character in one of the awful Star Wars prequels, I have to say President Obama sounds less otherwordly.

  16. It’s strange just to say “President [other name than Bush or Clinton]”.

    That’s non-Bush/Clinton change that we can…OK, let’s just put that cliche to bed, shall we?

  17. The other “wd40ish” machinations fall within the normal purview of monetary policy operations – albiet operations which are only appropriate in circumstances like those we are in now. Despite Fox News’ lawsuit, it’s not clear that these should fall under the FOIA.

    I don’t doubt you.

    And I was not implying that the Fed’s actions were subject to the FOIA although given the suit by Bloomberg and Fox News I can understand the confusion.

    But as opaque as Bush was it is unfair to cast TARP as hidden action.

    Now the Fed? As a semi-private institution I have no idea….

  18. Lefiti is losing his touch.

    His rabies must be wearing off.

    I would love to see him and Lew Rockwell in a foaming-at-the-mouth contest.

    The only sure winner is carpet cleaner stocks.

  19. Online Stimulus Transparency

    Sounds like a new condom. Is it Ribbed for Pleasure??
    Does Nancy Pelosi endorse it?
    Please say she does.
    G’Rowlll !

  20. “If capital is privately controlled, then people are going to have to rent themselves in order to survive. Now, you can say, “they rent themselves freely, it’s a free contract”-but that’s a joke. If your choice is, “do what I tell you or starve,” that’s not a choice-it’s in fact what was commonly referred to as wage slavery in more civilized times, like the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, for example.
    The American version of “libertarianism” is an aberration, though-nobody really takes it seriously. I mean, everybody knows that a society that worked by American libertarian principles would self-destruct in three seconds. The only reason people pretend to take it seriously is because you can use it as a weapon. Like, when somebody comes out in favor of a tax, you can say: “No, I’m a libertarian, I’m against that tax”-but of course, I’m still in favor of the government building roads, and having schools, and killing Libyans, and all that sort of stuff.
    Now, there are consistent libertarians, people like Murray Rothbard-and if you just read the world that they describe, it’s a world so full of hate that no human being would want to live in it. This is a world where you don’t have roads because you don’t see any reason why you should cooperate in building a road that you’re not going to use: if you want a road, you get together with a bunch of other people who are going to use that road and you build it, then you charge people to ride on it. If you don’t like the pollution from somebody’s automobile, you take them to court and you litigate it. Who would want to live in a world like that? It’s a world built on hatred.” – Noam Chomsky

  21. The lack of accountability thus far should be unacceptable to the taxpayers

    But do the majority of taxpayers really care? To use a quote from Whoopi Goldberg’s incoherent post that was linked to from H&R yesterday, “You know we all talk about transparency, but we can only handle so much transparency.” Now, I’m not sure, exactly, what the hell she means by this but it sounds like she doesn’t care about how the money is spent as long as the government (run by the right people now) is “doing something.” That seems to be the usual response from most voters. Aside from a nagging worry that it might not be wise to spend trillions of dollars bailing out bad decisions, as long as none of the money is going to Halliburton or welfare mothers, everything’s fine.

  22. Lefiti, any chance you could expand on the Chomsky quote and explain why it would be a world built on hatred? It sounds more like a world built upon practicality and self-reliance.

  23. The problem is not which corporation is getting how much money, but what are these corporations doing with it. After all now that we taxpayers have been forced to be stockowners in these corporations shouldn’t we know what our corporations are doing with our money.

    I for one would like to fire the management and board of directors of my corporations since they are obviously incompetent at best or criminal at worse.

    Even better I would like my money back.

  24. Why is there no thread on GM losing the number 1 slot to Toyota?

  25. hrm,

    I hate you, and it’s just from reading about, not experiencing, what you rightwing fruitbars call “libertarianism.” I imagine the world run by plutocrats of Dick Cheney’s ilk. Maybe you can explain why your rightwing version of things wouldn’t lead precisely to that.

  26. I’d give my left titty to see much less of lefiti.

  27. I see Lef___ and I proceed to the next submission without reading the prior’s vomit.
    The troll wastes its time with me.
    Why do others feed it?

  28. Lefiti, any chance you could expand on the Chomsky quote and explain why it would be a world built on hatred? It sounds more like a world built upon practicality and self-reliance.

    I will, although I am not ‘Lefiti’ although I am a fan of Chomsky.

    I regard capitalism as a form of meritocracy, as does Buffett (another “socialist” – according to the idiots). A meritocracy needs rules. Better players win when rules apply. When there are no rules – players leave the game.

    Pure Libertarianism is akin to five-year olds playing chess – the “rules” degrade into puerile piece throwing contests.

    Capital needs a liquid market system to function properly – and when the “market fundamentalists” queer the system for temporary gain the market loquaciousness withers and harms all capital.

  29. Yeah, you right-wing asswipes, why can’t you just fucking ignore me? Close your eyes and plug your ears. ++++ Heresy! ++++

  30. When exactly did the federal government define the rules for chess?

  31. Shrike,

    Pure libertarianism is a right-wing fantasy indulged in by losers like Gillespie who themselves could never make it in an unfettered market. They rely on donations from dimwit true believers they happened to get to before some other cult did.

  32. I wrote this parody of Edweirdo / Lefiti a while ago, but there really isn’t anything to add.

  33. Respond to the troll, and you’re part of the problem.

    1. Hi, I come across this website by mistake when I was going through Google then I came onto your site. I have to say your website is interesting I like your theme! Currently possess a lot of free-time at the moment to read through your website web sitebut I have bookmarked it. I will come back in a day or two. Thanks for a great site.

  34. Keepp commenting on responding to the troll, and you’re part of the problem, you stupid fuck.

  35. ” The lack of accountability thus far should be unacceptable to the taxpayers who have had trillions spent in their name.”

    Fine and dandy – and while he’s at it, Obama should promote some more transparancy on what category of taxpayers will be paying for the vast majority of this stuff (the same ones who have been paying for the vast majority of government spending for a long time) – the top 50% of income earners who pay 96% of the federal income taxes.

    Counter to Obama’s socialist drivel about “fairness”.

  36. Gilbert Martin

    You wouldn’t know a socialist from a shower curtain, you fucking ignoramus.

  37. I’m not a troll! I don’t live under a bridge!

    Or do I?

  38. Also, the person at 5:33 is spoofing me, and is probably Rod Blagoyevich.

  39. No, he lives in the basement of his momma’s house.

    LOL

  40. You have a point, Lefiti. Calling Obama a socialist is way overstating the case. I apologize. Sometimes it takes a troll to wake us up.

  41. Don’t respons to the troll even if he does make good points.

  42. Cool – now he’s trying to spoof me.

  43. But it is true that by any reasonable definition, Obaba is no socialist. Besides, I implied that there is something socialist about fairness, which is really stupid.

  44. For Christ’s sake, Gilbert, a troll is a troll. Don’t encourage him. You’re part of the problem!

  45. Now I feel bad about saying bad things about Lefiti. It’s your fault, Gilbert.

  46. Online Stimulus Transparency

    Sounds like a new condom. Is it Ribbed for Pleasure??
    Does Nancy Pelosi endorse it?
    Please say she does.
    G’Rowlll !

    If you experience a bailout lasting longer than four hours, seek medical attention immediately.

  47. If you find yourself trying to be funny on a libertarian site, go directly to the nearest psychiatric walk-in clinic.

  48. I hate you, and it’s just from reading about, not experiencing, what you rightwing fruitbars call “libertarianism.” I imagine the world run by plutocrats of Dick Cheney’s ilk. Maybe you can explain why your rightwing version of things wouldn’t lead precisely to that.

    But the world is already run by plutocrats like Cheney, even in the absence of a libertarian fantasy world. I don’t understand why moving further left or right would change that. What moving to the right would change, and by right I don’t mean GWB’s big gov’t right, is the amount of power such plutocrats can wield. The less government can influence society through its monopoly on power, the less plutocrats who influence the government have power.

  49. Hey, that’s not fair. ChrisO may not be funny, but he’s one of us–a true believer.

  50. hrm

    You’re too simple-minded for the wider world. Stay in the cult.

  51. I will, although I am not ‘Lefiti’ although I am a fan of Chomsky.

    I regard capitalism as a form of meritocracy, as does Buffett (another “socialist” – according to the idiots). A meritocracy needs rules. Better players win when rules apply. When there are no rules – players leave the game.

    Pure Libertarianism is akin to five-year olds playing chess – the “rules” degrade into puerile piece throwing contests.

    Capital needs a liquid market system to function properly – and when the “market fundamentalists” queer the system for temporary gain the market loquaciousness withers and harms all capital.

    shrike, I’m not too sure what pure libertarianism means though. I don’t think it means absence of the rule of law, or zero regulation, although I’m sure there are some libertarians who might think otherwise. Also, it’s not as if “rules” are kept consistent under a non-libertarian rule either. Favorites are played with the publics’ money regardless, now more than ever. Certain policies benefit some groups over others.

    Regardless, I still don’t understand the usage of “hatred” by Chomsky. Immaturity, although I’d disagree with the idea, would be a better word I think for what you’re describing, but I’m still left confused by Chomsky’s word choice.

  52. You’re too simple-minded for the wider world. Stay in the cult.

    k

  53. the nearest psychiatric walk-in clinic.

    With which you, as a fucking nutcase troll, should be intimately familiar.

  54. My first (two) spoofs – I’m honored, Edweir – er, Lefiti.

  55. shrike, I’m not too sure what pure libertarianism means though. I don’t think it means absence of the rule of law, or zero regulation, although I’m sure there are some libertarians who might think otherwise.

    That is the whole point. The “market fundamentalists” destroyed the rules that reined in the bankers who received advantageous interest rates ALL financed by the taxpayer.

    Thus – the “credit crisis” of 2007-08.

  56. Libertrarianism is eternal truth. Let freedom ring! Let Free men sing! Let the women cook apple pie! Let socialism die!
    Guns all around!

  57. Sounds a bit cultish, BakedPenguin.

  58. Lefiti | January 21, 2009, 5:44pm | #

    If you find yourself trying to be funny on a libertarian site, go directly to the nearest psychiatric walk-in clinic.

    This is perfect.

  59. shrike: The “market fundamentalists” destroyed the rules that reined in the bankers who received advantageous interest rates ALL financed by the taxpayer.

    But where does the term “market fundamentalist” land on the libertarian scale? There are some libertarians who argue that the reason for this crisis is in fact too much government involvement in the market vis a vis the Fed and certain regulations.

    See this link from the Mises institute: http://mises.org/story/3165

    Clearly, the author is a market fundamentalist. But he can’t be a “market fundamentalist” considering he’s against so many of the things “market fundamentalists” did and championed in the government. Would agreeing with him and adopting any of his policy recommendations be a move towards a more or less libertarian land?

  60. I eat poo.

  61. Lefiti’s been real busy spoofing people. Funny enough, I knew it would be like that.

  62. The government should make its policy clear and simple. It should also list who it has loaned money to, what has been paid back, and how much interest it has earned.

    self storage glendale

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