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Week of 8.25.06

Interview: A Misrepresented Deficit

Congressman Jim Cooper
Video icon Video: Congressman Jim Cooper
(interview begins at 17:30)
Tennessee Congressman Jim Cooper speaks to David Brancaccio about his belief that our federal deficit is much worse than official figures show.

"The real deficit in America is at least twice as large as any politician will tell you. And it may be ten times larger," Cooper, who serves on the Congressional Budget committee, tells NOW.

Cooper has brought the deficit to the public's attention with the publication this month of "The Financial Report of the United States," which Cooper describes as the financial reports "the White House doesn't want you to read." The book includes a harsh indictment by Cooper on current estimations of our country's deficit.

Cooper tells NOW that the current administration has been anything but conservative when it comes to spending, and he's concerned for our future. "We've got to make sure that we can live up to our commitments to the next generation. And this is the only way to do that, to get the numbers right."

Read Rep. Cooper's full critique [pdf]

Putting the Budget Online

In line with Cooper's efforts, a bill aimed at improving transparency and accountability of federal funds is currently working its way through the Senate. The bill, introduced by Senators Tom Coburn and Barack Obama, aims to create an Internet site to detail which companies and groups receive the hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars federal agencies award annually.

The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act would establish a single public Web site that chronicles all organizations receiving federal funds and the amount they have received annually over the last decade.

During a subcommittee hearing on the bill in July, Sen. John McCain, a co-sponsor of the bill, said the site would justify "whatever expense is associated with it in the first five minutes" because lawmakers would be more careful before giving money if the public was watching.

The federal government funds $460 billion in grants, $340 billion in contracts, and hundreds of billions in loans, insurance and direct payments each year. A non-profit federal budget watchdog, OMB Watch, has voiced its support of the bill.

Related Resources:

Read the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act [pdf]

OMB Watch's analysis of the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (S. 2590):