Economics

"Tracking the Stimulus? Good Luck" Or, Your Stimulus Dollars at Work, Doing Things No Man or Woman Can Understand

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That's the Cinncinati Enquirer's lede in a story about the government's underwhelming effort to tell us citizens and peons just how much we're being stimulated by our own past, present, and especially future tax dollars:

It's a simple question: How much stimulus money has the region received so far?

The answer: No one knows.

Despite assurances from the Obama Administration that stimulus spending would be fully transparent, the system for tracking stimulus spending is fractured, redundant and disorganized.

The system is such a mess that the federal government announced this week that it's spending $18 million just to revamp its Recovery.gov web site.

To which U.S. Rep. John Boehner, R-West Chester, told reporters: "This is the most ridiculous thing I've heard. They've spent stimulus money to create this web site, it doesn't work very well, and now they want $18 million more to track how this wasted money is being wasted."

Got that? It's the perfect self-perpetuating stimulus project, and it's a real steal at $18 million every few months. Observers are starting to figure the whole transparency rap by Obama was as convincing as his pledge to quit smoking.

Jennifer LaFleur, a former newspaper investigative reporter covering transparency issues for Pro Publica, said the Obama Administration may have promised something it couldn't deliver.

"I don't think it was a realistic promise to tell people this would all be tracked— especially as it gets filtered down to state and local government," she said.

Transparency, she said, "means my mom should be able to figure out how money is coming to her hometown, and how its being spent, and I don't think that's the case right now."

At this point, Mom LaFleur has a better chance of tracking torture sessions ordered by Dick Cheney than she does of contracts to her hometown. But let's not let this sort of thing get in the way of the feds running health care, right? Consider this complication happening at high levels in the Buckeye State:

The Ohio governor's office, for example, revamped its stimulus web site this month to give more detailed county-by-county reports. It says Hamilton County has $124.4 million in stimulus money coming its way; Butler, $20.5 million; Warren, $12.9 million; and Clermont, $6.9 million.

But Auditor of State Mary Taylor, a Republican, keeps a separate "Stimulus Tracker" web site. And according to that, none of that money has yet reached Hamilton County—and only fraction has gotten to the others.

Some months back, Reason.tv talked with the CEO of Onvia, Mike Pickett, whose company is tracking, in real-time and for free, stimulus spending. Watch below and go here for embed code, iPod and HD versions, and more links. Approximately 5 minutes.

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  1. Maybe, with this $18 million revamp, recovery.gov will tell us exactly which jobs were “created or saved” by the stimulus plan.

    And maybe pigs will fly, too.

  2. Jusy curious – When reason online revamped it’s website and put the server squirrels in the unemployment line,* how much did it cost?

    * To hell with the housing bubble and wealhcar costs, that event was likely the start of the present economic unpleasantness. Each server squirrel job lost cost the rodent community three more spin off jobs.

  3. That’s healthcare costs –
    Must – ingest – more – caffiene.

  4. Don’t worry, J sub, the Arboreal Rodent Union managed to get itself classified as a bank in time to get a piece of TARP.

    For $18 million, i figure the government could instead give every man, woman, and child in the country about $17, with the stipulation that we spend it on lunch, and thus stimulate the economy way more than some stupid website that they’re apparently not even going to use.

  5. Jesus, $18 million for a website?! Did they hire Bill Gates himself? Is there anyone in government who knows the actual market rate for anything?

  6. Jordan,
    Cost-effectiveness is SO 2007. That doesn’t matter anymore. The point is that the government is putting $18 million into the economy, even if it’s to pay 180 people $100,000 to play solitaire all day and not actually produce anything useful. That’s what we mean by “stimulus”, and it’s the cornerstone of our “rebuilt” economy.

  7. I don’t track my income and expenses and I suffer greatly, both financially and legally since I’m coerced into giving portions of my income away.

    Government doesn’t track their income and expenses and they get 18 more million to try again.

    The CBO needs the same powers as the SEC. Government fucks up and the DOJ or IRS comes after your ass. We’d need more people in the DOJ.

    Their all thieves.

  8. For what it’s worth, the House Republican Study Committee got a cost estimate from DesignQuote.net: $192,740 for a website with all the bells and whistles.

    On another note, shouldn’t we all be damn glad that the stimulus money has not been spent, thereby not adding to the deficit? We can’t complain about stimulus spending and then complain that it isn’t being spent, can we?

  9. To be fair, the $18 million includes the cost of running the website for five years, but it’s still way too much.

  10. “They’ve spent stimulus money to create this web site, it doesn’t work very well, and now they want $18 million more to track how this wasted money is being wasted.”

    Oh, lighten up. This is *much* better than digging and refilling holes.

  11. Oh, lighten up. This is *much* better than digging and refilling holes.
    Yes, and it requires that everyone involved get an expensive college degree. It all fits together so perfectly…

  12. “To be fair, the $18 million includes the cost of running the website for five years, but it’s still way too much”

    Couldn’t they just get godaddy.com to host the damn thing? Can’t you see the advantage there? Danica Patrick, Secretary of the Intertubez!

  13. Some group is offering a free website giving pretty much all the necessary information as a public service–it was mentioned on CNN yesterday:
    recovery.org
    Except for the fact that I can’t find information on what has actually been spent it’s pretty impressive, and cost taxpayers $0 Billion dollars.

  14. That is what the link above in the article references Geoff.

  15. That is what the link above in the article references Geoff.

    No, actually it doesn’t. Recovery.gov is the offending site, while recovery.org appears to be run by a consulting company with some web chops who have set this thing up to help businesses get in on some of the action.

  16. Geoff,

    Some months back, Reason.tv talked with the CEO of Onvia, Mike Pickett, whose company is tracking, in real-time and for free, stimulus spending.

  17. That is what the link above in the article references Geoff.

    No, actually it doesn’t. Recovery.gov is the offending site, while recovery.org appears to be run by a consulting company with some web chops who have set this thing up to help businesses get in on some of the action.

    Geoff,

    CLICK HERE

    Thanks,
    Hmm

  18. Somewhat irrelevant, but because I’m here:

    Re: Layoffs
    Blacks & Poor Hit Hardest

    (Bad) economists are confused…

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