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White House Gets Green by Putting Federal Budget Online 206

Posted by samzenpus
from the won't-someone-think-of-the-trees dept.
coondoggie writes "Looking to save $1 million, 20 tons of paper, or close to 500 trees, the White House said today President Bush's 2009 Federal Budget will for the first time be posted online. The E-Budget will be available for downloading at the Office of Management and Budget Web site on Feb. 4. Typically the White House has paper-bombed congress and anyone else who wanted to read the budget with a tome which can reach 3,000 pages and weighed multiple pounds each."
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White House Gets Green by Putting Federal Budget Online

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @07:51PM (#21977774)
    To force anyone visiting it to print it out.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      So they save a million? Wow, know how else to save money? STOP WAGING WAR YOU STUPID MOTHERFUCKERS!
    • by nospam007 (722110) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @08:34PM (#21978264)
      The only way the White House is going to get green with the current president is if they call the painters with lots of green paint.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by freemywrld (821105)
        "The only way the White House is going to get green with the current president is if they call the painters with lots of green paint."

        But knowing this administration, the paint would no doubt be lead-based...
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by ArcherB (796902) *
          "The only way the White House is going to get green with the current president is if they call the painters with lots of green paint."

          But knowing this administration, the paint would no doubt be lead-based...


          So let me get this straight:

          The White House, under President Bush, does something that just about everyone considers green, savings hundreds of trees, and is even a bit geeky, and the only thing you people can do is bash him?!? I have never seen a group of people who were more close minded and blinded
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Bert64 (520050)
            Because Bush and his administration have proven time and again that they are only out for themselves, and don't give a shit about the American people or even the American environment, let alone the world as a whole.
            There will be some self serving reason this has been done, whether to save money so it can be siphoned off elsewhere, or perhaps to increase bandwidth usage as people download instead (im sure bush has ties to isps/telcos, but doesn't stand to benefit from the government printing office having mo
  • by dsginter (104154) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @07:51PM (#21977778)
    Now, all we need to figure out is how to let the constituency modify it.

    This is an exercise that is left to the reader.
    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      Now, all we need to figure out is how to let the constituency modify it.

      This is an exercise that is left to the reader.
      That's easy, just join a Congressman or Senator's staff. Or become a lobbyist.

      Do you think your representative actually reads or crafts legislation?
    • by mrbluze (1034940)

      Now, all we need to figure out is how to let the constituency modify it.

      Or others to modify it en-route as you download it.

      I think it's a step forward. I mean, these days money is electronic, based on thin air. So is the budget. And now voting too. It's good that they have finally given up pretending.

    • by damburger (981828)

      That would be the democratic ideal, but the fact us none of us live in democratic countries. We will in representative 'democracies' where you vote for some arsehole who will lie to you, and then he ignores what he promised as he gets to be pretty much a dictator for the rest of his term.

      Voting someone out of office is difficult as all our current systems favour incumbency, and in any case the other guy is just as bad because they receive money from the same contributors probably.

  • cash money (Score:5, Funny)

    by User 956 (568564) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @07:51PM (#21977782) Homepage
    White House Gets Green by Putting Federal Budget Online

    Really? I thought they got green by taking it out of your paycheck?
    • by Machtyn (759119)
      Actually, I think the states get more green from taxes than the fed. gov't. I get almost 100% of my fed. taxes refunded.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by HomerNet (146137)

      White House Gets Green by Putting Federal Budget Online

      Really? I thought they got green by taking it out of your paycheck?
      No, no, no...that's congress
  • Net Savings: $0 (Score:5, Informative)

    by r_jensen11 (598210) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @07:51PM (#21977786)
    Why? Because everyone's going to have their assistants print the budget off for them.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Pfhor (40220)
      Actually more like -$[some amount of money]

      Because office lasers and related supplies cost more than a bulk printing center.

      They could probably buy every member of congress a Kindle and still save in the end.

      Actually.

      Why DONT they buy every member of congress a kindle, that way they can get instant EVDO downloads of every bill that is ever submitted to congress, whenever, wherever they are? And search it.
      • Re:Net Savings: $0 (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @08:14PM (#21978050)
        Do you have any idea how much harder it is to hide Pork in a searchable document with revision history then a 20 pound stack of paper? Like this would really take off.
        • disclosure of all budget items.

          I believe Texas is one of them. It apparently does cause legislators a lot of grief to the point many try to find ways to eliminate or bypass the requirement.

          If only we could force the US government to be totally open people might get disgusted with the current crop of Democrats and Republicans to maybe do something
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by corsec67 (627446)
        That assumes one thing:

        That anyone in congress actually cares about reading any of the bills.
        • by Yez70 (924200)
          Mod this man up.
        • by Baricom (763970)
          Exactly. In fact, Congress is precisely like Slashdot in many ways - the members don't RTFA, and sometimes don't even pay attention to the summary.
    • Re:Net Savings: $0 (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @08:04PM (#21977954)
      % grep -i bridge fiscal_budget.txt | grep Alaska

      All joking aside, the ability to index and search the budget should make it more accessible for inspection. Theoretically, you could apply filters to the budget and print out many categorized versions that would make it easier to see just how much money is being spent on various things.

      Now if they'd only release this information as a importable relational schema...
      • by sumdumass (711423)
        You forgot about using next years version to do a diff on and see where the major changes are without having to remember what you already gave in on last year.
    • I beg to differ. Having the budget or budget proposal available in an electronic format will allow interested parties to analyse the content in a more effective manner. And interested parties aren't just politically entities with "printing assitants" but organisations and persons trying to influence the agenda. Some might see this as a burden to political executives but I do belive that in the end that a widely disseminated budget information is better than a set of papers that only those who have access to
      • by h2_plus_O (976551) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @08:41PM (#21978346)
        Also consider that electronic copies opens up the door to source control and therefore auditable revision history. Ever wonder who added that earmark in the dark of night, after committee, just hours before a floor vote so none of the voters could review it?

        Serious. My team can't check in code without leaving a revision history, why should congressional staffers be able to modify legislation without leaving an auditable (revertable) trail? This would do wonders for our transparency and accountability problems in congress.
        • Yeah, I've been pushing as hard as I can about this issue to both of my senators,but when you get to be that powerful you become too busy to listen to the people your supposed to be listening to. They also have a NIH syndrome. They won't listen to a good idea that they didn't pay an advisor to devise, or weren't given a "campaign donation" (cough*paid off*cough) to promote it.
        • The data is already available at thomas.loc.gov, but it would be nice to have an easier way to examine differences between different versions of bills.

          Also, earmarks don't get added "after committee". A committee can't report a bill back to the floor without the committee voting on it, and the voted-upon version is what gets reported back. You might be thinking of conference committees, which are supposed to reconcile the differences between versions of a bill passed by the House and Senate. They do get
    • Less delivery, perhaps, means less fuel usage though people will have to go to the store to buy an extra few k sheets of paper. Printing at a commercial printing outfit is probably more efficient than running thousands of in-office laser print runs, so that's another loss. Less delivery effort for postal workers too. All up, looks like potentially a loss.
    • by jesterzog (189797) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @09:12PM (#21978684) Homepage Journal

      The headline of the article implies that this is intended to be some kind of environmental decision, but nothing in the article appears to back it up. In fact, the guy quoted is primarily going on about the much-improved accessibility of the budget. It'll now actually be possible for people to get it (rather than forking out an impossible $200 just to read it), and being in an electronic form, it's much easier to search through and index, not to mention only reading or printing the bits you happen to be interested in.

      At the moment I'm working at a government department (non-US) where we've been publishing information online for a while now, [smh.com.au]. People love it, both inside the organisation and those in the general public (journalists, opposition politicians, economists, and whoever else may have an interest). This is largely to do with the Official Information Act which, in New Zealand, basically states that government departments have to make available whatever information people ask for, unless there's a good reason not to. Over time it's resulted in most government entities publishing large amounts of information even when it's not requested, on the assumption that someone may ask for it sooner or later.

      The annual budget is probably one of the most important blocks of information and it's also one of the hardest, because it tends to be full of massive amounts of tables and figures from all over the place and from all kinds of different sources and people who often like to do things in very different ways. Even in a small country it's a big logistical exercise. Recently redeveloping the website to make things more accessible was a 2 to 3 year job, simply because of the amount of historical data that had to be gone through and re-formatted with more accessible markup, with people either using scripts or just manually trawling through it. I guess the nice thing about it now, though, is that there are systems in place to make sure that new data gets marked up usefully in the first place.

      Budgets are huge things to manage, as much because of the massive amounts of organisation that have to go into collecting the information and compiling it all together in a way that can be printed at all. Hopefully getting it out as a PDF would be the first step for the White House towards getting it more accessible.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by misleb (129952)
      No kidding. At the school I work for we went to great lengths to get class materials online and digital to save wear and tear on copiers as well as paper. Guess what? The usage on the laser printers in the labs skyrocketed.

      -matthew
    • by will_die (586523)
      Provided the same number are printed out the new way would actually be a negative.
      The reason is that printing shops can do the printing far cheaper and more green then your office printer.
      • by ultranova (717540)

        Provided the same number are printed out the new way would actually be a negative. The reason is that printing shops can do the printing far cheaper and more green then your office printer.

        Surely the solution is obvious then: outsource the printing to a printing press. That way the White House is green because it doesn't print anything, the Congress gets printed copies, and the economy gets a boost from the money paid to the printing press. Environment and economy both benefit. It's a perfect scheme :).

  • by Ambiguous Coward (205751) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @07:58PM (#21977876) Homepage
    You mean it will actually be searchable in an efficient, reasonable manner? Or will it just be one giant black rectangle playing the part of a 3000-page redaction?

    -G
  • The bigger story here is that non-congress members will be able to read budget for free in the first place. There should be a distributed volunteer campaign for each user to read a page of the budget and look for outrageous tidbits.
    • by LWATCDR (28044)
      "There should be a distributed volunteer campaign for each user to read a page of the budget and look for outrageous tidbits."
      Yep but they should start by looking for their local pork. And then tell your congressperson that you don't want it.
      I already tried that with mine over the USS Forrestal (CV-59). On a good note it did get retired even over the objections of my Democratic Senator.
  • A three THOUSAND page pdf?

    that is 3,000.

    THREE THOUSAND

    Nobody is going to read it.
    • by Marcion (876801) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @08:04PM (#21977944) Homepage Journal
      Nobody is going to read it.

      Mission accomplished.

      Did you see that scene in Fahrenheit 911 when they faxed the patriot act to congressmen overnight and then voted on it the first thing in the morning?

      British politics may involve a lot of shouting and require people in strange wigs, but at least the read the laws and debate them and modify them several times before voting on anything.
      • require people in strange wigs

        Is the strange wig actually required as part of formal dress or do the MPs wear them just because they are an interesting, if somewhat archaic, piece of optional costume? I notice that foreign dignitaries, when speaking in parliament, never wear the wig. Apparently they don't keep any loaners in the cloakroom for visiting dignitaries so I guess it is "bring your own wig" (BYOW) or else do without. Is the whole wig gig were they get the term "big wig" from?

    • Browsing, on the other hand, and using summaries to gather information, that you can do. Oh... wait... "pdf", you're right, no one will read it.
    • by strredwolf (532)
      Biggest... PDF... in... the... WORLD!
    • I think that's rather the point, sir.

      Before: No one read it, and they wasted a small forest printing it.

      Now: No one reads it, and the webserver wastes a few kilowatt-hours sitting idle.
    • by jesterzog (189797)

      Nobody is going to read it.

      But you can safely bet that a lot of people will print it.

      • by daeg (828071)
        At work, no less. I think I can hear the cry of office printers world-wide screaming in future pain... the pain of their pitifully small internal memory suddenly overloaded by user CUSTSERVICE\JohnDoe.
    • by geekoid (135745)
      Actually, there are people that not only read it all, but study it, and review it. Sadly, most these people get ignored because they offer a non partesen evaluation. Much like people who actually study Social Security.

      Many more people read the relevant parts.

      3000 page's for a document that covers that much detail isn't bad.
    • by SeaFox (739806)

      A three THOUSAND page pdf?
      Nobody is going to read it.

      You think they read it when it was printed out for them? This measure really is just about the environment since they know making all those bound copies was just busywork anyway.
    • It's similair to a technical manual in that respect. But the seventy-odd pages that cover the portion of the government I work for will probably get a looking over. And if I'm bored, I'll take a look at the portions for NASA or DOJ out of curiousity.

      And, yes, if the final budget is available the same way, with the revision history, you better believe I'm going to make sure that none of my congressmembers voted to cut funding on things I feel are worthwhile.

  • Wrong! (Score:5, Informative)

    by jdigriz (676802) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @08:08PM (#21977992)
    I downloaded the 2008 budget just yesterday from here, http://www.gpoaccess.gov/usbudget/fy08/browse.html [gpoaccess.gov] Ooh, maybe they mean this is the first time the *2009* budget is available just like it is a first every year each time it's posted.
    • by Pfhor (40220)
      Question- Was it the approved budget or the proposed budget for 2008?

      I can understand that an approved document has to be put online, but this is bushes Proposal for 2009, which has yet to be approved IIRC.
    • by ari_j (90255)
      Without RTFA, I can't be certain, but perhaps the 2009 budget will be the first one to not be released in hard copy by the OMB at all.
  • What is stopping them from downloading it, and printing it themselves? Or giving it to an intern who runs off ten copies instead of having to open up just one from the regular post mail?

    Have we really solved anything? Now, if the budget was in a PDF that prevented printing, NOW we'd be somewhere...

    • by nmos (25822)
      What is stopping them from downloading it, and printing it themselves?

      Why would they? It's not like they read it anyway.
  • I don't remember the last time I received something via snail mail that couldn't have been sent via email and the web. Bills, stock notices, adverts, etc.


    500 trees is a pittance compared to what could be saved.

  • Green? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jeffrey Baker (6191) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @08:30PM (#21978234)
    Paper is a renewable resource like rice or strawberries. It's grown on farms like any other crop. They aren't out there chopping down ancient redwoods for paper.

    The issue of going paperless to save the planet was always bogus. Driving a mile in a car has a much larger impact on the planet than printing a page.
    • by Kidbro (80868)
      The issue of going paperless to save the planet was always bogus.

      Explain how not printing a page can be equally, or more wasteful than printing one.

      Driving a mile in a car has a much larger impact on the planet than printing a page.

      How is this relevant? They are two completely separate actions. One will in no way affect the other, and one (driving a car) is generally known to be a very environmentally expensive thing to do anyway.

      • It's relevant because it's ridiculous to trumpet that you have accomplished something green by eliminating 0.00001% of your environmental impact. Every member of congress flies across the nation twice a week. The executive branch is currently in the business of buring five million gallons of gas per day in a war. So I don't want to hear about their absurd petty greenwashing.
      • Explain how not printing a page can be equally, or more wasteful than printing one.

        The first idea that comes to mind is electricity. The library of fiction books I read every year took a few hundred pounds of paper to print. I spend a few weeks each summer re-reading them. If you're going to be reading the same thing over and over, at some point the amount of electricity wasted in leaving the computer running exceeds the amount used to manufacture the same book.

    • Re:Green? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Ardeaem (625311) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @08:59PM (#21978502)

      Paper is a renewable resource like rice or strawberries. It's grown on farms like any other crop. They aren't out there chopping down ancient redwoods for paper.

      The issue of going paperless to save the planet was always bogus.
      Making paper requires lots of chemicals which are not particularly eco-friendly. Also, only a percentage of the trees used to make paper worldwide come from tree farms. According to this website [ecology.com], only 16% come from paper farms, so that means the rest (that isn't recycled) comes from sources that take more time to renew. In the mean time, the older trees that were removing more CO2 from the air are (at best) replaced by much seedlings or much younger trees, meaning that there is less CO2 being removed from the air.

      On the contrary, making something that will be widely read available online will have only a small effect of power usage. If you factor in the amount of power used by the machines that harvested and created the paper it WOULD have been printed on, I imagine there is a pretty big savings.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hansamurai (907719)
      But what about saving U.S. taxpayers $1 million in paper costs? It doesn't seem like much to the federal budget, but every little bit helps.
      • It doesn't seem like much to the federal budget, but every little bit helps.

        That's not necessarily true. A cynic would cite the adage "they have to be seen to be doing something" to counter your reasoning.
    • Paper is a renewable resource like rice or strawberries. It's grown on farms like any other crop. They aren't out there chopping down ancient redwoods for paper.

      Some good points, but worth pointing out that that strawberries don't incur the environmental problems [wikipedia.org] associated with paper production before they arrive on your plate. Strawberries may not be the greatest example here, but you get the point.

      The other issue is that paper is recyclable. That's "recyclable" as in you can, for the most part, put it
  • I will be in the form of doxnloadable OOXML.
    • by hdparm (575302)
      Not "I" - should read "It"
      Not "doxnloadable" - should read "downloadable"

      Time to wash the keyboard
  • by themushroom (197365) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @09:16PM (#21978720) Homepage
    ...which simply says "70% military, 25% domestic defense, 4.99% other domestic concerns, 0.01% schools and education."
    • Not quite... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by raehl (609729)
      60% Old People, 20% Sick People, 15% Military (offense and defense), 4% other domestic concerns, 1% bridges in Alaska.
  • Should be the first line in the damn budget.

    How many office printers are chugging away on this print job? (And probably not even printed in full duplex...)
  • Typically the White House has paper-bombed congress and anyone else who wanted to read the budget with a tome which can reach 3,000 pages and weighed multiple pounds each."

    Googling from 1988 to the present the office of the President has never submitted a 3000 page budget request. coondoggie is pulling that number out of his/her butt (or I'm using the wrong search terms).
    Congress re-submitted a 2000+ page document to GWB in 2007.

    The budget is a request for funds, granted by the constitution to the Presid
    • The budget is a request for funds, granted by the constitution to the President of the United States.

      No, it's not. It is granted by the Constitution to Congress. They have delegated by implicit consent (i.e. lack of objection) to the presidents of the 20th and 21st Century who have assumed the duty of wrangling the agencies and departments of the United States government and producing a request which Congress can ignore.

      The president has no Constitutional powers over the budget; Congress is free to ignore the request and write one of their own. The difficulties in passage (getting the president's signa

  • good start (Score:4, Insightful)

    by roman_mir (125474) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @10:14PM (#21979222) Homepage Journal
    that's a good start, however for some time now I've been thinking that the government should be publishing real time expenses online through an easy to use interface. I live in Toronto, Ontario and our city has been suffering on the verge of bankruptcy even though the budget from the taxes is over 7.5 billion CAD/year. About 60% of the money goes to the unionized city workers, which is a shame, there is no competition for the city contracts really, it's all government based mafia. This is not a surprise given that the city is governed by an NDP idiot-troll [canadafreepress.com] and the province is yet again in the hands of a liberal pathological [thestar.com] lier. [canoe.ca]

    I would like to see the government's bank statements on line. If the city gets the 7.5 billion CAD a year from the taxes, I would like to see the current balance, look at all expenses in detail. If a million is given away here [splatto.net], another million there [thestar.com], I would like to see the details of every transaction.

    If the city mayor suffers a defeat on his crazy tax proposals (something he concocted instead of looking at balancing the budget the correct way, without immediately imposing new taxes the NDP way,) then the mayor wants to punish the city [theglobeandmail.com] with meaningless reduction in working hours of community centers and libraries, I want to see the savings in the budget. Of-course the truth is that there was no savings, since the union city workers are still sitting in those centers and libraries because the union will not allow the city not to pay these people and the only sufferers are the citizens who cannot use these public resources.

    The government does not want the citizens to be able to see detail of every dollar that is spent, because if we did see these details, we would revolt.
  • Seeing as the President doesn't make the official budget, I'm betting this is his proposed budget, not the end-all official 2009 All-Star World Series budget that is actually passed by Congress.
  • by Khyber (864651)
    What? 2009? Bush is out of here in 2008, unless something dastardly is being planned.
    • by Titoxd (1116095)
      Um... no. Not only will Bush remain in the Oval Office until January 20, 2009 [opm.gov], but FY 2009 extends from October 1, 2008 (which is even before the general elections) to September 30, 2009. (ref [wikipedia.org])
  • Old people don't like things in computers, they like to "hold the information in their hands" and ridiculous things like that. What they'll do is have someone print it for them, and because printing is easier than photocopying it (less human supervision required), they'll just make even more copies to share whith any old person who needs one.

    Of course, we'll be able to grep through it, so it's cool.

  • It'll go something like...

    Page 1: Preamble
    Page 2: Several billion to blow shit up in middle east
    Page 3: Perks for politicians. Lots of air travel etc.

    Oh yeah. I like a green budget. Just because you put it online and maybe avoid printing a few copies, doesn't make it a green budget. That's like saying loggers that use the right bin for their recycling are conservationalists. In a few generations these few generations will be known as the scum that caused half of the problems being faced while making ourselv
  • Making the huge budget law searchable will revolutionize the budget process. It will no longer be advantageous to make it big just to hide screwings in a law that no one reads.

    Instead, not a single person will ever read it, because Congress will develop billion-dollar software to automate the task. Eventually the budget will consist of the words "whatever, dude", though the inability of computers to analyze that will produce the same results as today: random money for arbitrary projects, as long as it's mor
  • tome which can reach 3,000 pages and weighed multiple pounds each

    Hmm... Just about the size of one of those iPhone bills from AT&T.

  • As of 1997, then Texas Governor George W. Bush did not even have a public email address, even though Texas Lt. Governor Bob Bollock did (demonstrating that it wasn't a technical problem with the governor's office, it was an TCP problem in the firewall between the outside world and W's brain.)
  • Interested parties across the nation are thanking the White House for saving trees as they download and PRINT the budget.

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