• Government 2.0

    Whenever I get engaged in a political discussion, I find myself thinking in terms of what makes sense for a business. The way I have always seen it, the first bill I pay on the 15th and 30th when I get my paycheck is to the government, and in return I should be getting good service and a receipt – just like any other business transaction.

    But this isn’t what happens. As long as I have been earning my keep, I’ve seen the money evaporate out of my paycheck and then disappear. I have no idea where it is being spent, other than vague guesses I can make based upon the cost of government programs large enough to get press.

    I know that a lot of my money goes to programs that support special interests and lobbyists, and pet projects of the people in power. I know this because it’s the same bullshit that occurs in large companies all over the world, where the people in power make political decisions instead of the decisions that are in the best interest of the company and those working for it. And as long I have been working, there has been nothing that I could do to make the government work any differently.

    The bit about all this that has never made sense to me is why the government is not run like a publicly traded company. All the companies I am invested in send me statements required by the regulatory system giving me detailed information about where they spent, made, and lost money. I’m engaged by them for shareholder votes when they have to make corporate policy decisions, and I receive detailed documentation describing the motions on the table, the company’s preference, and the reasons for/against. This all makes perfect sense, since it’s my money that they are acting upon. And they send all of this to me with no effort required on my part.

    Now, I expect that in the past I would have been able to get this information from the government if I had dug deeply enough. But it really shouldn’t be that much work; after fourteen years in the workforce, I’ve got far more money invested in the government than I have in any of the companies in which I own stock. And so far, my investment in the government has been a staggering loss.

    And that’s why I’m pretty excited about the new whitehouse.gov web site. Not only are there several RSS feeds to follow, but the new president has promised to make all non-emergency legislation available five days before it is signed, and there’s an easy way to send feedback to the White House if I so desire – something I’ve been invited to do. I can also watch the president’s weekly video address and sign up for email notifications. Plus, I seem to remember Barack promising during his campaign to publish details from the budget as they come together, which (assuming I’m remembering correctly) I am really interested to see.

    So, I’ll basically be able to stay informed effortlessly, just like with my investments. Frankly, this is the least the government can do, which makes me wonder why the hell we’ve had to wait over a decade for the government to properly embrace the Internet. But whatever; it’s here now.

    So let’s review the status of my citizenship in Government 2.0.

    1) Subscribed to the presidential blog? Check!
    2) On the White House email list? Check!
    3) Bookmarked for the weekly video address? Check!

    It’s certainly salad days, and the new administration’s actions will be the measure of their mettle, but I’d say they’re off to a pretty good start so far. And if things should change, I’ll bitch about it here on my blog as usual…

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