Marketplace Scratch Pad

I can’t see the transparency

Scott Jagow Mar 6, 2009

A few weeks ago, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner unveiled the Financial Stability plan, the next phase of government intervention into the financial system. Geithner announced the launch of a new website, FinancialStability.gov. Here’s what Geithner said about this website:

The American people will be able to see where their tax dollars are going and the return on their government’s investment, they will be able to see whether the conditions placed on banks and institutions are being met and enforced, they will be able to see whether boards of directors are being responsible with taxpayer dollars and how they’re compensating their executives, and they will be able to see how these actions are impacting the overall flow of lending and the cost of borrowing.

Just take a look at the site. First of all, as NPR’s David Kestenbaum points out on the Planet Money blog, the Obama web team seems to be falling down on the job. It looks like an FTP site. It still says “coming soon.”

Secondly, all I see are press releases and guidelines. I see nothing about “whether boards of directors are being responsible with taxpayer dollars” or “how they’re compensating their executives” or “whether the conditions placed on banks and institutions are being met and enforced” or any of the things Geithner said.

Maybe it’s too soon? But some of this new money has already gone out the door. What’s going on with it? Geithner said this site would “give the American people the transparency they deserve.” Apparently, it’s so transparent, it’s invisible.

When Geithner announced the plan, Marketplace commentator Robert Reich argued that the government’s actions were not a model of transparency:

To date, the Fed has already committed some $2.5 trillion to rescuing the financial system, yet no one outside the Fed knows exactly how or where this money went.

And we still don’t.

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