Transparency in Government-Really?

31 01 2009
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 The Ruse of Transparency
Authored by:  William Robert Barber

I believe hidden in plain sight is what not only the Obama administration but many state, county and city governments call transparency. The tone of the word transparency has many positive connotations, the public relations hype on the importance of governmental transparency has no public opposition, conceptually, consensus is strong and resolved that transparency should be a governmental requirement not an arbitrary decision. The PR idea is to post via the Internet legislative pending or resulting governmental actions so that the public can scrutinize. The underlining basis of this newly invigorated sponsorship of transparency is the supposition that by publishing legislative action there will be less governmental nonsense, corruption and outright stupidity; after all, the public will be viewing and reviewing, thus, because of transparency, elected officials will be guarded and concerned about a public backlash on issues such as tax increases.

In the interest of understanding this new buzz word of Obama and company: Transparency. A few of the synonyms that help define the word transparency are clearness, lucidity, simplicity; the antonyms would be ambiguity, vagueness, or indistinctness. Now that we have the word transparency defined and boxed into the unmistakable, let’s test its value. Many to a majority of Americans have invested their personal monies into the equity or bond market. The broker-dealers who offer these securities must meet very strict rules and regulations enforced by the SEC in order to submit these investment opportunities to the public. Hence, if there is ever a test as to the veracity of transparency it is those thousands of public traded companies who publish not only a GAAP standard balance sheet but must comply, in the interest of transparency, with a multitude of public filings. A real good example of the real-world merit and veracity of transparency are those balance sheets published by AIG, GM, Chrysler, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Bear Sterns, Lehman Bros., Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chase; the list goes on and on; despite their compliance to strict transparency standards all of these entities were actually impaired and needed federal funds in order to operationally continue. Of course two in my list did go bust after being denied federal cash. So much for the value of transparency!

How many people on this planet can actually read, analysis and interpret the applicable meaningfulness of Bank of America’s balance sheet? Damn few! But even for those few who could understand the bank’s balance sheet the information posted maybe in compliance but it is designed as a record of what happened in arrears; in other words, the real time present is not indicated as a part of GAAP accounting. The real time present accounting is a Performa of anticipation with the well documented and affixed in plain view caveat: This Is a Guess.

My point is that the prevailing transparency of Obama and the like is a ruse, a deception stated boldly in plain view. This ruse is perpetrated by the want-to-be powerful to placate the electorate. Those in power will never allow the public to see with unobstructed simplicity the clarity of their actions.

One more point of transparency, how many legislators read and comprehend the text of the multi-bills, laws, amendments, and word cleverness edits or additions inserted by non elected staff?

Governing is a complex ambiguous business because we have allowed our governing to slip away from our grip. Today even public referendums mean nothing to a lot less; the people have been usurped by the licensed and privileged. This issue of transparency as presented in full view is a sham because of the inherent voluminous library of information, the specificity of the vocabulary presented, and the manner of presentation. True transparency would have layman language, pictures, and DVD explanations, there would be an Internet delivered Q&A component to governmental actions.

It is one thing to print governmental activities in plain view another to do so in a manner of layman comprehension.

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