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My Bright Idea: J.C. Watts on Budget Transparency

My Bright Idea: J.C. Watts on Budget Transparency

AP Photo

Last Christmas, my family was gathered around the dinner table when a friendly debate erupted. My son, daughter, wife, and I began arguing about the lyrics to the song My Girl.

We each staked our position, each one of us sure in our answer. The more we argued, the stronger our convictions grew. Then my son whipped out his iPhone (AAPL) and Googled (GOOG) the lyrics, which settled the argument in less than five seconds. (I was right, by the way.)

The past two decades revolutionized the way we access information. You and I can have our questions answered with the click of a mouse at any time of day. If America, both corporation and citizen alike, can use these services to solve problems, why can’t Washington?

Republicans and Democrats have used accounting gimmicks and competing government analyses to deceive the public into believing that 2 + 2 = 6. If our leaders cannot agree on the numbers, if “facts” are fictional, how can they possibly have a substantive debate on solutions? If Washington put our actual budget, not varying analyses, online for all Americans to view, the dishonesty would cease, and Americans would have the opportunity to identify the problems themselves.

Transparency and truth aren’t new innovations, but applying both in Washington would be revolutionary.


J.C. Watts was a Republican congressman from Oklahoma and now runs J.C. Watts Partners, a Washington consulting group.

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