Yeah, We Got Ire to Spare

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Jul 20, 2006 2:00 PM

The Christian Science Monitor is following the Senate push (thanks to McCain, Obama, and Coburn) to rip the veil away from government spending habits. I bet Robert Byrd is spinning in his...office over this:

After a nearly fruitless long war to rein in wasteful government spending, the Senate's most relentless pork-busters are trying a new tack: unleash the energies - and ire - of 10,000 bloggers.

The answer to budgetary obfuscation, these senators say, is sunlight. They propose to list all federal spending on oneeasy-to-access website, saying it will be simpler for ordinary citizens to see where tax dollars are going - and to shame lawmakers into being more accountable.

I'm salivating.

The senators' system would allow online users to search for all the US contracts, grants, or other payments made, for example, to Enron or Halliburton over a decade.

"It seemed an obscure issue when I first heard it, but it could be revolutionary," says Chris Edwards, director of tax policy studies at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank here.

The proposed law - cosponsored by Sens. Tom Coburn (R) of Oklahoma, Barack Obama (D) of Illinois, Thomas Carper (D) of Delaware, and John McCain (R) of Arizona - directs the White House Office of Management and Budget to create a website showing all recipients of federal grants, contracts, and other payments. It must be free, easy to search, and accessible to the public, they say.

Mark Tapscott testified in favor of the bill this week:

I believe the federal spending database required to be established by FFATA will reinvigorate the routine coverage of government at all levels in the nation's daily newspapers because getting the information needed for such coverage will become much easier. If the database allows users to search and filter spending information at such elementary levels as by state and by category of activity, every reporter covering basic beats like schools, crime, the environment and transportation will incorporate information from the database in their stories on a regular basis...

As positive a development as that would be, I believe the effect of the FFATA federal spending database would be even more significant on new media, especially the Blogosphere. As you know, bloggers are fulfilling an increasingly important role in the American public policy arena, often providing detailed news and analyses before mainstream media outlets are able to do so. There are millions of bloggers and their ranks are growing at an amazing rate. In many respects, the Blogosphere's collective capacity to cover a news event or issue vastly outweighs that of the mainstream media, if only because the Internet enables what New Yorker magazine columnist James Surowiecki calls "the wisdom of crowds."

Tapscott's following the progress of the bill, updating frequently.

This would be so much fun. Right now, regular folks have not the time to keep up with everywhere the HUGE federal government is spending their money, and many in the federal government love that. This would muss much plumage on Capitol Hill.

Sure, not everyone would search the database. Not even everyone interested in spending would search it. But you know who would? Your local, friendly blogger. Right now, the only folks who have time to comb through all of it are advocacy groups who do ONLY that-- places like CAGW.

Giving the ability to easily search such information to an army of bloggers is a step in the right direction. Most bloggers are outside the Beltway. They're citizens who happen to be activists on an issue or two, as opposed to Beltway activists who are also citizens. What better than to put more information in their hands?

Sunlight, sunlight, sunlight. I love it. It'll be great to see these guys squirm when all this is in the open and they have to answer for it. There's a reason they'll fight this, and it ain't because it's bad for us.

As always, Porkbusters is aggregating all the latest. Thanks, N.Z.! Speaking of which, Hugh made a really good point the other day-- why hasn't a major news organization snapped N.Z. up? Seriously, he outdoes them all and he's a one-man show doing it for free. It's astounding. Silly MSM.