Journalism in the Public Interest


What to Expect When You’re Expecting Stimulus Data

File photo from WDCPIXPeter Orszag, director of the president’s Office of Management and Budget, sent out a 62-page memo to department and agency heads Wednesday, outlining how to comply with the transparency and accountability provisions of the stimulus package.

The headline: It might be a while before we get data we can believe in.

Federal agencies will start submitting weekly reports on March 3. But those reports don’t have to include spending information until April 6. And even then, it might just be totals.

Cinco de Mayo is the day we might see detailed project data in the format similar to

States are due to begin reporting on July 10, but it will only be updated quarterly. They’ll have to include the name of each project, a description, an estimate of the number of jobs for each project and the name of who’s in charge. But if the state allocates money to cities or other entities, how much will be reported is fuzzier.

“For instance, a grant could be given from the federal government to State A, which then gives a subgrant to City B (within State A), which hires a contractor to construct a bridge, which then hires a subcontractor to supply the concrete,” Orszag explains. “In this case, State A is the prime recipient and would be required to report the subgrant to City B. However, City B does not have any specific reporting obligations, nor does the contractor or subcontractor for the purposes of reporting for the Web site.”

The White House press office did not return our calls or e-mails to find out what happens when the old lady swallows a cat to catch the bird to catch the spider that wiggled and jiggled and tickled inside her.

Uncle Sam was once rich and could help everybody. But times have changed. He now has to accept the burden of supporting over fifty million blind, lame, feeble, and unemployed Americans. That burden will cost over a trillion dollars annually. Uncle Sam cannot do it alone. This enormous task has to be shared by all of its citizens.  Wealthy Americans have over 75 trillion dollars in assets. They would have to bear the brunt of the burden. It would be wonderful if sunny days would shortly return but there is nothing but storm clouds on the horizon.  Hope remains because we all can survive by holding hands, tightening our belts and riding out these stormy years.

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