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Online Budget Database Planned by White House 304

prostoalex writes "The President of the United States feels Americans should be able 'to Google their tax dollars', and has signed a law that will create an online database to track federal spending. According to the Associated Press, the 'law is aimed preventing wasteful spending by opening the federal budget to greater scrutiny. The information is already available, but the Web site would make it easier for those who aren't experts on the process to see how taxpayer dollars are being spent.'"
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Online Budget Database Planned by White House

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  • Meh. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TheCabal ( 215908 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @02:55PM (#16203147) Journal
    Nothing will come of this. There will be no data in the database due to either "national security" or creative accounting.
  • by kabocox ( 199019 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @03:01PM (#16203285)
    This sounds like a really good first step. It's a pity that it's taken this long for them to get around to it though. What's really bad though is that it'll most likely take years for this to roll out. What I'd really like is a www.fia.gov that was a single site that any citizen could request and instantly recieve a copy of all FIA information that the government: federal, state, and local can legally give out to citizens. I'd actually like them to spend a few hundred million on a project like that.
  • by Mateo_LeFou ( 859634 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @03:02PM (#16203301) Homepage
    I suspect you're right. Enron made their income & expenditure information public, too. For funzies here's a story about how they evade being specific here in Dallas: Schutze [dallasobserver.com] rules, by the way.
  • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @03:06PM (#16203393)
    > Senator Bridge To Nowhere said, "It is not as if these morons can stop us from spending the money. Then why waste money helping them find the wasteful spending?"

    ...whereupon Senator McBridge was promptly set upon and flayed alive by enraged representatives - for his first sentence contained a truth, and the second was the foulest blasphemy his fellow politicians had ever heard.

  • Already been done (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Aqua_boy17 ( 962670 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @03:06PM (#16203395)
  • Just how long... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Nom du Keyboard ( 633989 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @03:10PM (#16203475)
    And just how long will this last after the next Presidential election -- especially if the party in power changes? Can they get it too well established to take away afterwards over the next two years?
  • already been done (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @03:13PM (#16203539)
  • Re:Meh. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WhatsAProGingrass ( 726851 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @03:18PM (#16203597) Homepage
    I work for the military and even in our little shop, we can't keep track of our spending habbits. We can't keep track of man hours. Every piece of data that goes "higher" up, is definately skewed to show the "right" numbers. Absolutely nothing that gets sent up is actuall data. But let them keep spending millions trying to track it. When they find faults, they will yell at the people "below" and tell them to fix the problem. Well, now the people below will "fix" the numbers for the higher up guys. Wow, great ideas.
  • by way2trivial ( 601132 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @03:18PM (#16203627) Homepage Journal
    things the Govt DOES NOT WANT YOU TO GOOGLE?

    p.s. why is that- think about it-
    EVERYTHING under these pages is NOT going to be a result when you search on google.

    http://www.whitehouse.gov/robots.txt [whitehouse.gov]
  • Fantastic idea (Score:2, Interesting)

    by daigu ( 111684 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @03:26PM (#16203769) Journal
    Fantastic idea. I'd personally like to know where the $507 billion since 9/11 through FY2007E [fas.org] was and will be spent - with breakouts by mercenary wages, secret prisons, black operations, etc. Given how forthcoming this administration isn't with everything else it is doing from NSA spying on U.S. citizens to the use of the state secrets priviledge to fend off lawsuits aimed at getting them to provide more information, this can only be posturing for the upcoming election. Check out the Secrecy Report Card 2006 [openthegovernment.org] for an eye-opening discussion.
  • by mr_luc ( 413048 ) * on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @03:26PM (#16203773)
    Public transparency is the arch-enemy of entrenched power -- of all sorts.

    So all that measures like this mean are that obfuscation and securing of information will move from the process and mechanics of apportioning tax money -- quietly sneaking in billions in pork, as evidenced by the efforts of Byrd and Stephens to kill this bill (read TFA) -- to their initial conception.

    We've already seen this in, say, the environmental policies of the past six years. Healthy Forests; who is against those? Such a program certainly wouldn't be associated with distasteful policies like logging national forests ...

    Instead of quieting the *passage* of wasteful bills or the awarding of ridiculous military contracts and other such theft, the process of weaselifying government spending will happen in the early stages of their conception.

    Since the military and security is a sacred cow, Head-Start will be renamed the Homeland Child Protection and Institutional Defense Agency.

    The military itself will show up on the budget as "1 trillion annually: FREEDOM."

    The solution, of course, would be to allow citizens to annotate the entries for their fellow citizens, and to rate the contributions of their fellow citizens to allow popular opinions the visibility they deserve.

    Which, despite its negligible cost, would never, ever, ever be allowed to happen. Control of information is power, and the government never gives away power to citizens unless forced.
  • by timothy ( 36799 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @03:28PM (#16203803) Journal
    Sorry, but this comment isn't based on a deep reading of the article; I'm sitting in class ("Federal Income Taxation") right now.

    A googleable budget is a good start, but things should go a lot further: I'd like to see a paint color called Taxcolor Green (and a highlight color called Debt Red) which all things paid for by tax dollars would be painted, in proportion to the percentage of tax money used to finance them. (Debt Red would be used in a repeating pattern which conveys the amount of the national debt at the time the money was spent.)

    This wouldn't upset the army too much, though the Stealth Bomber program and some others would need to file for some sort of exemption.

    Anywho, that's my modest proposal for the day -- need to flesh that out a bit ;)

  • Re:Already been done (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Aqua_boy17 ( 962670 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @03:52PM (#16204291)
    I want to see an invoice for every last damn pen the government purchases
    That would be one heck of a PDF and I'd be willing to bet you wouldn't be through scrutinizing it before it was time for next year's budget.

    If you do look at the link I posted though, it's quite interesting to note that 64% of the entire federal budget is earmarked for military spending. 110 billion alone is designated for 'the global war on terror'. Maybe this article should have a link back to a /. article I remember from several weeks ago about scientists trying to create a black hole generator. Seems to me like they could learn a good deal about creating black holes from reviewing the federal budgeting process.
  • Death and Taxes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DrDitto ( 962751 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @04:04PM (#16204535)
    There is already a very nice, pannable/zoomable diagram on federal tax dollars.

    www.thebudgetgraph.com [thebudgetgraph.com]
  • Re:Meh. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by overunderunderdone ( 521462 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @04:19PM (#16204793)
    Actually (IIRC) it's that the story is wrong. It's not a database of the budget but a database of "earmarks". Earmarks are set asides of dictating that particular money must be spent on specific projects rather than going into the general fund of the department being funded. So if congress says the Department of Transportation gets 200 billion dollars that's not in the database... but if it says "the DOT must spend $225 Million on a bridge to Gravina Island, Alaska" that IS in the database. The administration doesn't decide what gets into the database or not, congress does by either earmarking spending or not.

    This is purely a political move.
    Yes but so is most earmarking. It's hoped that it will put pressure on congressmen to give up the worst of their pork barrel spending. Sadly though this might backfire. I'm sure most lawmakers don't want to be known as the biggest spenders of pork on the hill, but the whole point of pork is that it gets votes. Many an election has been won by saying "I wasted the rest of the countries money on meaningless projects and jobs for you guys in my district"
  • Re:haha (Score:3, Interesting)

    by funwithBSD ( 245349 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @04:29PM (#16205021)
    I assure you, a gaggle of new blogs will crop up overnight like so many toadstools after a rainstorm.

    Those accounting wanks will wade through the BS and come out with a nice shiney diamond in the form of a wasteful project to show you. Then you, the voter, can put pressure on your congress creature to do something.

    And it will happen across the board as each wank goes after their pet "pork" project.

    Yes, I am more optimistic... I think there will be good work and good things out of a nasty process.
  • Correlation (Score:3, Interesting)

    by camt ( 162536 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @05:31PM (#16206215) Homepage
    It would be neat if you could link each piece of spending with the name of the Congressman whose wording introduced that particular clause of the spending bill, and then somehow correlate that data back to OpenSecrets.org [opensecrets.org] and then find out how much "profit" was made by each entity (tax revenue routed to a given company/industry minus lobbying dollars spent by that company/industry).

    Whose lobbying dollars are the most profitable? I know mine sure aren't.
  • Re:Meh. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jemenake ( 595948 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @06:20PM (#16207091)
    Actually (IIRC) it's that the story is wrong. It's not a database of the budget but a database of "earmarks".
    Actually, I believe there are *two* different (yet related) things going on. One is the budget database (mentioned in the article), and the other is a change in the House rules eliminating the ability of reps to insert earmarks *anonymously*. The database is a law and can be expected to persist. The rules change on the other hand, although it holds much more promise to curtail budget abuse, is only for this year! So, in light of that, I'd say that the rules change is a purely political move... "Hey, how about we Republicans show the people that we're the party that stands for open-ness and disclosure... at least until it gets us through the mid-term elections!".

Last yeer I kudn't spel Engineer. Now I are won.