Remember the day when President Barack Obama promised that concerned citizens would be able to track “every dime” of stimulus money online? He was talking about the official government website, Recovery.gov.
Which doesn’t have any details about contracts or grants yet—and won’t until October 2009 or, more likely, sometime next year, long after the thrill of living is gone and a huge chunk of the $787 billion stimulus package has already been frittered away on “shovel-ready” projects such as the John Murtha-Johnstown Cambria County Airport (pop. 20 passengers a day).
Thankfully, the folks at the information-services firm Onvia stepped in and created the site Recovery.org, which is already on the case and showing, as much as is possible, who is getting what.
Like Adam Smith’s butchers, bakers, and brewers, it’s not from Onvia’s benevolence that the company is doing this, but from its self-interest: The company puts mostly small and mid-sized firms in touch with local, state, and federal agencies that need some sort of contract work done.
Which might well be the point: The private sector has eaten the feds’ lunch on this precisely because they have to hustle in order to keep the wolf from the door. Even, ironically (and frankly disturbingly), when the project is all about chasing government dollars.