Follow the Money

April 11th, 2009

If you were spending $787 billion, wouldn’t you want to know where it’s going?  Seems the Obama Administration isn’t too worried about it, and neither is the majority in Congress.

The thing is, the money Congress and the Administration are throwing at the economic crisis is our money.  We’ve already had indications that they don’t have much of an idea what’s being done with it.  For example, billions and billions of dollars went through AIG like noodles through a goose to foreign banks and other U.S. companies.  The government, apparently, had no idea. 

Members of Congress who want to follow the money, see where it’s going, maybe make a judgment on whether it’s being used correctly—well, they have to turn to Google and Lexis-Nexis because the government has no effective way of doing it.

From Byron York’s column yesterday in The Washington Examiner:

During the stimulus debate, the bill’s supporters stressed that it included strong oversight safeguards. But audits and reports are months, if not years, away. Oversight will be after the fact; right now, with the money actually beginning to flow, members of Congress have little or no idea where it is going. What, for example, is the Department of Housing and Urban Development doing with the $1.5 billion Congress approved for a new program called the Homeless Prevention Fund? Lawmakers don’t know.

So for now, the Googling goes on. Even though Cantor and Thune didn’t vote for the stimulus bill, Congress approved it, and now they would like to know where the $787 billion is actually going. It’s not an easy job.

If they wanted, majority Democrats could demand real-time details from the Obama administration. But minority Republicans have no power to compel the administration to do anything. So Rep. Eric Cantor, the Republican Whip in the House, and GOP Sen. John Thune have set up a working group to track spending as best they can.

You might think that two high-ranking elected officials would have ways to learn such things, but the fact is, they don’t. At the moment, the best tools Cantor and Thune have are Google and the Lexis-Nexis newspaper database. …

All that Googling leads to a question. Shouldn’t Congress, which has to make critical decisions on how to spend the taxpayers’ money, have a better way of knowing where that money is going? After all, the Obama administration promised that its new website, Recovery.gov, would detail everything taxpayers wanted to know about the stimulus expenditures.

It hasn’t. “We have been pressing the administration from the get-go to put everything online so that we can achieve a level of transparency and come clean to the taxpayers,” Cantor told me. “But that kind of transparency and accountability are just not in place.” The Obama administration admits that Recovery.gov has not had a smooth start, but promises better performance in the future.

Read the entire column.  York gives some examples of people getting stimulus money who didn’t ask for it and don’t know how to use it.

As Everett Dirksen once said, “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.”  And remember—it’s all our money.


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3 Responses to “Follow the Money”



  1. Brian |

    It all smacks of Newspeak, does it not?

    Some of my favorite Mark Twain quotes on congress:

    All Congresses and Parliaments have a kindly feeling for idiots, and a compassion for them, on account of personal experience and heredity.
    Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.
    Fleas can be taught nearly anything that a Congressman can.
    It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.
    I never can think of Judas Iscariot without losing my temper. To my mind Judas Iscariot was nothing but a low, mean, premature Congressman.


  2. Tom |

    Anyone who’s following all this economic crisis business in the press already has a pretty good idea that the government doesn’t know what’s happening with a whole heck of a lot of that money. That’s really an appalling state of affairs. If what they’re doing doesn’t work out well in the end, we ought to make sure the key players in Congress are voted out—regardless of whether they’re Democrats or Republicans.


  3. doris |

    Did you see where they are buying busses for southern California, about $1.9 million of the bailout,16 busses. They said that it will make a lot of jobs because of the different parts being assembled all over. They neglected the part where the frames come from Chinese steel mills. Hmmm, getting some of their money back? Also, one of the pork bills was to give over a million to study the strong smell of manure and pigs in Ames, Iowa–kind of ironic?


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