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How We Find Pork in the Federal Budget

For once, the White House House is striking back against Congress in a way that serves our public interest. Equally surprising, they (or, more accurately the Office of Management and Budget) is using a social media tool to shame the politicians by showing the pork-barrel projects they are sending back to their districts. As Stephen Barr of the Washington Post reports, OMB is using a wiki to track earmarks in the federal budget. Earmarking is the way members of Congress send pork (funding for pet projects) back home. (As Anthony Williams notes, “Citizens can already view earmark data on Many Eyes thanks to the Sunlight Foundation and some clever visualization technology provided by IBM Alphaworks” – yet it seems to be hard to keep up-to-date.)

The upside is this wiki also supports smarter group decisionmaking within government. Barr writes, “The wiki permits budget officials to work in real time with one another, rather than sort through e-mail chains wending through the government. It allows officials to hold online meetings when time is short or bad weather makes in-person meetings difficult to schedule. It is open around the clock, so federal budget officials may post comments from home at night or on weekends.” Even the intelligence agencies are trying to collaborate via a wiki.

Why not strike back, Congress? Start a wiki featuring all the executive orders the president uses to bypass your voting. Don’t stop there. To use the sunshine of public awareness to strengthen the checks and balances of our three-part democracy, why not include in the wiki the signs of lax or biased federal regulatory enforcement?

For participatory democracy, what if the wiki allowed comments (none anonymous) and community ratings of comments?

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