United States President Barack Obama announced today that his administration will roll back the secrecy that has ruled during the Bush Administration and implement a new era of government openness and transparency.
Referring to the Freedom of Information Act as one of the most important tools of oversight the nation possesses, Obama called on all government agencies to err on the side of openness and release information whenever possible, which directly contradicts orders by the previous administration to look for reasons to withhold information whenever possible. Just because you have the legal right to withhold information, doesn't mean you should, Obama said at a White House press conference and staff swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday.
"For a long time now, there's been too much secrecy in this city," he said.
Reason urges Obama to go even further with his transparency agenda:
During the campaign, Mr. Obama talked about "putting the government online" and he has already announced a website for stimulus spending—www.Recovery.gov.
"We plan to create a Web site that will contain information about the contracts and include PDFs or contracts themselves and also financial information about the contracts," Peter Orzag, Obama's choice to lead the Office of Management and Budget, encouragingly told The Washington Post.
But President Obama and Congress should not limit transparency to just the stimulus spending or even TARP—everything should be on the table.
The Treasury Department—in association with the Federal Reserve and FDIC—should create an "online checkbook" showing how many checks it has written, when they are cashed, and offer detailed notes about what they paid for. The government should also list who it has loaned money to, what has been paid back, and how much interest it has earned. Ultimately, the key is simplicity and clarity.