President Obama’s administration launched a new website Tuesday night, www.recovery.gov, to allow taxpayers to track stimulus spending and results and weigh in with comments. The www.recovery.gov website promises that Federal agencies distributing American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds will eventually report where the money is going and promises to display that information visually in maps, charts and graphics.
Federal agencies received instructions about transparency and accountability in implementing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act from President Obama’s chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel, available for public viewing on www.recovery.gov, before the Act became law. The memo, dated February 9, was issued “in preparation for the Act’s implementation” and preceded the Act’s enactment into law by 8 days. It instructs Department Secretaries and Agency Directors who anticipate receiving significant economic stimulus funds to designate a senior level official responsible for coordinating recovery efforts. The Emmanuel memo advises that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will issue government-wide guidance on providing spending and performance data to be posted on the www.recovery.gov website, establishing rigorous internal controls to meet American Recovery and Reinvestment Act accountability objectives, and to the extent necessary modifying the standard processes for awarding contracts to meet the time frames and other specific criteria required by the stimulus legislation.
Quoting from the February 9 memo, www.recovery.gov explains the Obama administration position on transparency:
“We cannot overstate the importance of this effort. We are asking the American people to trust their government with an unprecedented level of funding to address the economic emergency. In return, we must prove to them that their dollars are being invested in initiatives and strategies that make a difference in their communities and across the country. Following through on our commitments for accountability and openness will create a foundation upon which we can build as we continue to tackle the economic crisis and the many other challenges facing our nation.”
www.recovery.gov is not only designed to provide information to taxpayers about government activities; it aims to collect personal stories of how Americans are affected by the economic crisis and recovery. An email sent in the name of President Obama from www.barackobama.com to persons who subscribed to his website during the campaign states that tens of thousands of personal stories have already been collected. The Obama email links to barackobama.com, a website paid for by the Democratic National Committee, for access to those stories. Although I am an Obama supporter, I have to admit discomfort at receiving email “from” him through a DNC funded website now that he is President rather than through government channels.
There is an unsavory feel to the blurring of the lines between the President’s election campaign website, barackobama.com, and the official acts of the U.S. government as reflected in the new website www.recovery.gov. While making spending information available to the public online is a governmental objective few would find less than laudable, www.recovery.gov reads a bit more like a sales pitch than a factual government document. This may require taxpayers to think like Administration cheerleaders when seeking governmental information from www.recovery.gov. Want to see how much money is being allocated to Federal government entitlement programs under the Recovery and Reinvestment Act? Scratch labels like government entitlements or actual program names. Allocations to government entitlement programs now apparently fall under the euphemistic rubric “protecting the vulnerable.”
Sources: http://www.recovery.gov/; email from firstname.lastname@example.org;