“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Barring a seismic turnaround, that’s likely how history books will write the 2016 Presidential race. While the American people were prepared for a serious discussion about the nation’s future, instead, they have been treated to one of the most caustic, shallow election seasons in recent memory. Indeed, most Americans are now feeling like the country will be headed in the wrong direction regardless who is elected President. This is a historic missed opportunity.
Where can we find optimism in an election cycle that has been anything but optimistic? In one small corner of the Internet, I was fortunate to participate in an exercise that should give hope to anyone concerned about making government work again for all Americans.
Last week, the Foundation to Restore Accountability, an educational non-partisan organization founded last year by former U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, MD, launched the first ever USA Spending Scavenger Hunt. The scavenger hunt was a call to action for anyone and everyone who hopes to create real change in their government…simply using a laptop or smartphone. The task was simple, use usaspending.gov as a tool to find government waste, and share it with the foundation via social media. The top participant finds are to be featured in a rebirth of former Senator Tom Coburn’s Wastebook, an annual report that exposed Washington’s worst waste and outlined practical solutions to put the nation’s finances back on track.
USAspending.gov was created by Coburn and then Senator Barack Obama, with broad bi-partisan support, to create greater transparency within the Federal Government. The website hosts a searchable database where anyone can find every dollar spent by Federal agencies. Agencies are required to report the name of the entity receiving the award, the amount of the award, the recipient’s location, the place of performance, as well as other information. Any person with an Internet connection can use the website, the same site used by congressional staff and other Washington watchdogs, to weed out wasteful projects like monkeys on treadmills and Colorado’s dinosaur buses.
Restore Accountability is dedicated to making government more transparent, expose wasteful spending, and inspire future generations to get more involved in holding their government accountable. In its short life, the foundation has already been a beacon of inspiration for Americans who want to create change in their government. And with the succession of Coburn’s wildly popular Wastebooks, participants of the foundation’s challenge will have an opportunity to make their voice heard.
Over the course of two weeks participants uncovered $930,810,582 of questionable, low priority or outright wasteful spending including, a $500,000 DoD ski resort stay, a Border Patrol sponsored NASCAR, and numerous transactions for “golf.” While this was a small event, I believe it demonstrates the enormous and largely untapped potential that we as citizens hold to make our government work again for all Americans. Our problems are undoubtedly big and complex, but they are not unsolvable. With tools like usapending.gov now widely available, the American people can now do something their leaders have failed to: find wasteful spending and demand greater accountability.
Restore Accountability wants to involve all taxpayers, particularly younger Americans, in charting a better course for America’s finances. RestoreAccountabiliy.com has the tools and tutorials for anyone to get started. The keys to driving the change vehicle are already in the ignition, who wants to drive?
Featured in the Washington Examiner