Obama Administration Discontinues Transparency Tool
Patrick Tyrrell /
Since 1993, the Census Bureau has made available detailed data about federal government expenditures in its Consolidated Federal Funds Report (CFFR). The 2012 report will be the last one.
Through the CFFR website, the public had access to such data as federal expenditures made at the county level for programs such as Medicaid, Social Security, and Medicare as well as for more obscure federal spending programs. How much did the federal government send to Autauga County in Alabama for a hazardous materials training program? That data was available, but now it is concealed.
The CFFR states:
The U.S. Census Bureau has terminated the Federal Financial Statistics program effective for the FY 2012 budget. The termination of the program results in the elimination of the Consolidated Federal Funds Report (CFFR), including the publication, downloadable data, and the On-Line Query System, as well as the annual Federal Aid to States Report (FAS). In preparation for the Fiscal Year 2012 budget, the Census Bureau did a comprehensive review of a number of programs and made the difficult decision to terminate and reduce a number of existing programs in order to secure funding for new programs or cyclical increases for other programs.
Did someone tell the Census Bureau that it must end the CFFR in order to expand other, less transparent data collection? The Obama Administration’s 2012 budget appendix includes a request to expand the Census Bureau’s research and production capabilities in some areas and a request to reduce them in others. It does not name exactly what is to be terminated but only what is to be expanded.
Under the table cuts are not transparent.
The old CFFR website refers people to USASpending.gov, with the caveat that not all of the data is available there. For the past two weeks, none of the data was available there.
I spoke with the chief of the Federal Programs Branch at the Census Bureau, who pointed me to the archives section of USASpending.gov there. When we click on any of the files that are supposed to contain federal contracts however, we continually got “page not found” messages. Researchers who want to continue to use data they have had access to since 1993 are out of luck. On Friday, April 13, the data mysteriously returned to the page and is now located there, but the availability of the data remains spotty—one day in the last two weeks.
With the Obama Administration outspending all prior Administrations while adding to the astronomical federal debt, the fact that taxpayers can no longer rely on access to where and how their money is being spent at the county and city level is disquieting. So far, Administration officials have been able to brush the lack of transparency under the rug. For the good of the country, that needs to change. Citizens should demand to know what is happening to their tax dollars once they are sucked up by the federal government’s vacuum cleaner.