ProPublica has been doing some fine work with public information. Their latest is a Frequently Asked Questions file for recovery.gov. As they say:
While it’s fabulous that the stimulus oversight board has made so much data available on Recovery.gov, understanding it all can be a daunting task. In response to some of the questions we’ve had from reporters about the data and Recovery.gov, we’ve started a tip sheet.
The Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board released an upgraded version of the Recovery.gov website on Monday, September 28. Recovery.gov is, per the website, "the U.S. government’s official website providing easy access to data related to Recovery Act spending and allows for the reporting of potential fraud, waste, and abuse." The site now has a zip code search for finding local Recovery Act awards, a Data Download section, and a new home page layout with more information upfront.
The reviews of the recent upgrade are out and can be summed up as "meh." The conclusion from interested bloggers seems to be that while a few improvements have been made around the edges, there is little new to shout about. Observers are waiting for the real show, the scheduled October 15 release of the first recipient contract data and October 30 release of the first recipient grant and loan data. From the blogs:
Meet the New Recovery.gov, "(mostly) the same as the old Recovery.gov", from OMB Watch Blog, September 28.
New Recovery.gov Goes Live, Key Data to be Released Later, from WSJ.com Washington Wire, September 28.
Grading the New Recovery.gov, a substantial review from Sunlight Labs, September 29.
Meanwhile, CRS librarians have updated their compilation of links to Recovery-related information on the web in this report available from OpenCRS.com: Authoritative Resources on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), updated September 10.
A new web site: whitehouse.gov/Recovery/. "While WhiteHouse.gov/Recovery will be the place where our story of Recovery is told, you can always go to Recovery.gov to make sure your recovery dollars are going where they should: jobs, jobs, jobs."
White House Unveils New Stimulus Site, Tech Daily Dose, June 8, 2009. "The White House Web team unveiled yet another Web page on Monday -- WhiteHouse.gov/Recovery -- that provides snapshots of economic stimulus package dollars at work around the country."
Private sector zips past government in Recovery Act tracking, By Robert Brodsky, NextGov, (04/16/2009).
The charter for the Obama administration's Recovery.gov Web site is to allow every citizen to monitor the progress of economic stimulus spending. It's an ambitious goal, and one that government might not reach for some time.
But a private sector company boasts it already has created a site that meets the government's objectives.
On March 31, Seattle-based Onvia launched Recovery.org, a site capable of tracking every dollar of federal, state and local Recovery Act spending in real time, according to company officials....
The reporters at ProPublica have done a great job of comparing the House, Senate, and Conference versions of the Stimulus bill as best they can given that we don't yet have a copy of the final version of the bill. Check out their chart of changes:
- The Stimulus Deal: The Latest Tally, by Michael Grabell, ProPublica, February 12, 2009.
Well, we wanted to tell you what’s in the final, $789 billion stimulus package, but guess what? The bill still hadn't been released as of late Thursday. So the best we can do is this partial account, which is based on summaries released so far. Where an item is blank, it means we don't yet have the figure.
The Commonwealth has developed a website for citizens, groups, localities, and others to use to share project proposals for potential funding from the expected federal stimulus package. As the stimulus package becomes finalized, more information and details will be made available on this site.
...These suggestions will be posted on the Virginia Stimulus webpage and shared with state government officials. All the information will be public.
It has a page of proposals and is making the data available under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
This site already has press realeases, webcasts, and fact sheets: FinancialStability.gov.
On Tuesday, February 10th, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner outlined a comprehensive plan to restore stability to our financial system. In the address, Secretary Geithner discussed the Obama Administration’s strategy to strengthen our economy by getting credit flowing again to families and businesses, while imposing new measures and conditions to strengthen accountability, oversight and transparency in how taxpayer dollars are spent. And Secretary Geithner explained how the financial stability plan will be critical in supporting an effective and lasting economic recovery.
For more information, please visit http://www.treas.gov/initiatives/eesa/
GovTrack has set up a page where you can find comparisons of the text of H.R. 1, the stimulus bill, at different stages in its legislative life --- including the House version (as passed) and the current Senate version (amendment 570). Thanks Josh Tauberer!
See also The main page on GovTrack for HR 1: American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
I was talking to a colleague of mine today, he is an urban planner professor, and he was telling me what a wonderful time it was for his area of study. Suddenly, he told his students, everyone is talking about strategy and making plans to fix things, repair long-standing problems, stimulate that, and direct this. Clearly, after nearly thirty years of suffering from those political and cultural elites who belittled any support of organized government intervention to mitigate the more savage aspects of a free market, he sounded like a man who suddenly woke up speaking in a language others understood.
Is it not so for libraries and librarians? For years we argued of the rightful place that our institutions serve to our communities. But we seemed to be out of touch with the political imagination of most of our elected officials (at all levels of government.) Traditional and new economic players (from national bookstore chains to Google)were beating us in our own arena of expertise -- getting information to people. But economic dislocation creates chaos and opportunity. Might one argue that this kind of turmoil invites a new conversation on how we sustain our institutions in this environment for the long haul? As I pointed out several times during the last few weeks, many of our professional associations, along with the Government Printing Office, are seeking ways to pull together to discuss these changes. There are many opportunities to contribute, if not think, to these changes.
One of the better overviews of the coming economic/policy revolution was published in the New York Times Magazine yesterday, and here is a relevant section --
"ONE GOOD WAY TO UNDERSTAND the current growth slowdown is to think of the debt-fueled consumer-spending spree of the past 20 years as a symbol of an even larger problem. As a country we have been spending too much on the present and not enough on the future. We have been consuming rather than investing. We’re suffering from investment-deficit disorder.
You can find examples of this disorder in just about any realm of American life. Walk into a doctor’s office and you will be asked to fill out a long form with the most basic kinds of information that you have provided dozens of times before. Walk into a doctor’s office in many other rich countries and that information — as well as your medical history — will be stored in computers. These electronic records not only reduce hassle; they also reduce medical errors. Americans cannot avail themselves of this innovation despite the fact that the United States spends far more on health care, per person, than any other country. We are spending our money to consume medical treatments, many of which have only marginal health benefits, rather than to invest it in ways that would eventually have far broader benefits.
Along similar lines, Americans are indefatigable buyers of consumer electronics, yet a smaller share of households in the United States has broadband Internet service than in Canada, Japan, Britain, South Korea and about a dozen other countries. Then there’s education: this country once led the world in educational attainment by a wide margin. It no longer does. And transportation: a trip from Boston to Washington, on the fastest train in this country, takes six-and-a-half hours. A trip from Paris to Marseilles, roughly the same distance, takes three hours — a result of the French government’s commitment to infrastructure.
These are only a few examples. Tucked away in the many statistical tables at the Commerce Department are numbers on how much the government and the private sector spend on investment and research — on highways, software, medical research and other things likely to yield future benefits. Spending by the private sector hasn’t changed much over time. It was equal to 17 percent of G.D.P. 50 years ago, and it is about 17 percent now. But spending by the government — federal, state and local — has changed. It has dropped from about 7 percent of G.D.P. in the 1950s to about 4 percent now.
Governments have a unique role to play in making investments for two main reasons. Some activities, like mass transportation and pollution reduction, have societal benefits but not necessarily financial ones, and the private sector simply won’t undertake them. And while many other kinds of investments do bring big financial returns, only a fraction of those returns go to the original investor. This makes the private sector reluctant to jump in. As a result, economists say that the private sector tends to spend less on research and investment than is economically ideal.
Historically, the government has stepped into the void. It helped create new industries with its investments. Economic growth has many causes, including demographics and some forces that economists admit they don’t understand. But government investment seems to have one of the best track records of lifting growth. In the 1950s and ’60s, the G.I. Bill created a generation of college graduates, while the Interstate System of highways made the entire economy more productive. Later, the Defense Department developed the Internet, which spawned AOL, Google and the rest. The late ’90s Internet boom was the only sustained period in the last 35 years when the economy grew at 4 percent a year. It was also the only time in the past 35 years when the incomes of the poor and the middle class rose at a healthy pace. Growth doesn’t ensure rising living standards for everyone, but it sure helps."
If Washington is going to be the center of our economic future, its outliers will be government information. An opportunity for government information librarians to get themselves back in the frame.
See you on Day 13.
President Obama has launched a new website, Recovery.Gov that people can use to see how their tax money is being spent. He stated that it is “an unprecedented effort to root out waste, inefficiency, and unnecessary spending in our government.” As of now, there is not much on the website but be sure to check it out after the passing of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. To learn more about it, read his weekly address that he delivered on January 24.