Promoting “Google Government”

It may be a forlorn hope that politicians of either party will ever be truly fiscally responsible, opposing spending programs that either are not authorized by the Constitution or, even if authorized, are unwise. The temptation to take advantage of the taxpayer for electoral purposes is too strong.

But the very same politicians might act like fiscal hawks if they fear that their constituents will find out whenever they tap the public till for political purposes. Amanda Kathryn Hydro of the Reason Foundation and Jason Mercier of the Washington Policy Center in Seattle propose what they call “Google government”:

Everyone has heard of Rep. Don Young’s (R-Alaska) infamous bridge to nowhere— the congressional earmark that secured $231 million to build a bridge to an island inhabited by roughly 50 people.

But the bridge to nowhere isn’t the only egregious waste of taxpayer money. Citizens Against Government Waste found Congress allocated $2.4 billion to 24 pork projects this year alone.

Taxpayers usually have no way of finding out where their money actually goes or how it is truly spent. Government reform groups are trying to change that by pushing efforts at the federal, state and local level that would shine the light on government spending.

Enter Sen. Barack Obama, Rep. Ron Paul, Sen. Sam Brownback, Sen. Mike Gravel, Rep. Dennis Kucinch and Mr. John Cox. These presidential candidates have all embraced the concept of “Google government” by signing the Oath of Presidential Transparency— which is sponsored by a non-partisan coalition led by the Reason Foundation.

By signing the oath they are promising, should they win the presidency in 2008, that they will issue an executive order during their first month in office instructing the entire executive branch to put into practice the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006, a Google-like search tool that will allow taxpayers to hop online and see exactly how their tax dollars are being spent on federal contracts, grants and earmarks.

Greater transparency alone won’t return us to a constitutional government. But making it easy for taxpayers to see what their government is up to is a first step to returning us to a constitutional government. Transparency in government is something which libertarians, conservatives, and good government liberals should all be able to agree on.