Is ‘government transparency’ an oxymoron? Maybe not.
The word of the recession so far seems to be "transparency."
We're doling out money by the billions, but nobody's quite sure how it's being spent. The companies we're bailing out are dishing out huge bonuses to their C-suite executives. Everyone wants their financial information delivered (a) accurately, and (b) immediately.
Sounds like an argument in favor of XBRL to me. But that's a blog post for another day.
Instead, I want to talk about the ways in which politicians are keeping constituents informed these days.
Cases in point: Recovery.gov and Maryland StateStat.
With Recovery.gov, the Obama administration has taken its love of electronic and social media and applied it to the economic recovery. The site breaks down how the money is being spent, offers readers the opportunity to give feedback, and includes a state-by-state breakdown of how the recovery funds are being spent.
Which leads me to Maryland StateStat. It's the statewide offspring of Gov. Martin O'Malley's renowned CitiStat program and is designed to make the state more accountable in how it spends taxpayers' money. The site shows Marylanders how the state is spending its share of the federal government's stimulus money and offers up-to-date financial reports from the state Department of Transportation, the Department of Human Resources, the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation and other state agencies.
OK, I know: You have to take these sites with a grain of salt. They are, after all, the products of politicians. To a certain extent, they're telling you what they want you to hear.
But here's the thing: No one has told us anything before. Transparency? It's traditionally missing in action. Today, we have some elected officials who are committed to doing what the recession's villains have thus far refused to do: They're at least pretending to tell us what they're doing with our money.
Baby steps? Maybe. But it's progress nonetheless. And I'll take it.