Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Don't Get Your Hopes Up

The good news, via Captain's Quarters:

Senator Tom Coburn's office has announced that the Senate has just passed a new bill to replace the language of the original S.2590, which establishes an on-line searchable database for federal spending. This action will expedite the legislative process and may put the bill on President Bush's desk by tomorrow:

The Senate just passed an amended version of the Coburn-Obama database bill based on our agreement with the House. Following House passage of the bill the measure will go to the president for his signature. Tonight’s action in the Senate means the Senate will not need to revisit the measure as the House will vote on this identical measure tonight or tomorrow.

The Senate, under Bill Frist's guidance, simply took the modified language under consideration in the House and passed it themselves first, apparently by acclamation. This eliminates the need for a conference committee and avoids any delay after the adoption of the bill in the House. . . .

UPDATE: The bill passed the House tonight, and the bill is on its way to the White House for Bush's signature already.

The bad news: S. 2590 as I read it, extends only to contracts and not to the operations of the federal government, itself, which will remain shrouded in the arcana of government budgeting. Moreover, the database on contract awards "shall be updated not later than 30 days after the award of any Federal award requiring a posting [emphasis added]." Can you say "barn door closed after horse has left"?

The so-called Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 falls well short of accountability and "transparency." The only effective way to make the federal government accountable is to elect members of Congress who make themselves accountable to the Constitution and the limited powers that it bestows on Congress (see Article I, here).

While I'm being an old curmudgeon, I must add that I simply hate the buzz-word "transparency," which has come into wide use in the past 10-15 years. What is really meant by "transparency" isn't transparency. Something that is transparent cannot be seen because it can be seen through. What is really meant by "transparency" is visibility: the property of being able to be seen. We want to see what the government is up to (except where it would damage the war effort), and we want to see it before it becomes a fait accompli. I want a government whose operations and budgets are visible to me, not a government whose operations and budgets are invisible because they are transparent.