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By pairing spending data with community need indicators and putting this information in the hands of active citizens, transparency generates more awareness and accountability about the use of federal money. It begins to level the information playing field between public officials and citizens and arms people with the information they need to advocate the programs, services and infrastructure that they believe are essential to the health and well-being of their communities, and it demonstrates the importance of presenting information on federal, state and local public spending in formats people can use and understand.
If we are to have a government we can believe in, we need to know that we can see where our money is going and whether it is effectively targeted. We are betting on a million inspectors general — and we hope the Obama administration is, too.
Katherine McFate is president of OMB Watch. Maya Wiley is president of the Center for Social Inclusion. Greg LeRoy is executive director of Good Jobs First. Laura Barrett is executive director of the Transportation Equity Network.