President-elect Barack Obama has talked the talk about government transparency. But will he walk the walk? House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) stole the spotlight on the issue yesterday when congressional leaders sat down with Obama to discuss his economic stimulus package.
According to the New York Times, Cantor secured one of Obama's first specific policy commitments when the president-elect agreed to put "the entire contents of the legislation online in a user-friendly way to see how the money is being spent."
This was a brilliant suggestion from Cantor and a savvy political move. Conservatives must hold Obama and his administration accountable for his transparency promises. While I'm skeptical of Obama's sincerity (judging from his health care forums), the only way to keep him honest is to play offense.
Details of how Cantor's idea is accomplished will need to be figured out, but it's based on the concept that a full online ledger of the stimulus spending should be publicly available in a user-friendly format. The information should be updated in real-time, meaning that as the stimulus spending changes, the information online should reflect it immediately. Taxpayers should be able to sort by congressional district to find out how the money is being spent.
My only gripe with the idea is that it assumes a spending-focused stimulus is inevitable. Regardless, the onus will be on Obama and congressional Democrats to live up to their promise for complete transparency.