Why Americans need to call on the government to provide 20/20 insight into their 2020 affairs
Democracy (noun): a government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.
America has long been called a democratic republic. As seen by the definition above, our nation is governed by the idea that power lies in the hands of the people to elect those who are going to represent them. The problem posed for Americans is: how accurately can Americans elect representatives or hold them accountable if we don’t even know what’s happening behind closed doors?
We can hardly be asked to vote for a candidate when we don’t know the truth behind their actions, can’t see their tax returns and don’t know their true stance on important issues. This new year brings with it all of the corny calls for “20/20 vision,” and while it is slightly overplayed, I believe Americans must call for 20/20 insight into the workings of their government.
This call is a two-way street. First and foremost, the government must make information such as what happens to all of our tax dollars and what is being said in meetings with foreign officials, as much as is nationally safe to do so, available to the public.
President Obama took a step in this direction in 2013 when he announced his Open Data Policy. This policy was aided by Project Open Data, which “is an online, public repository intended to foster collaboration and promote the continual improvement of the Open Data Policy … to foster a culture change in government where we embrace collaboration and where anyone can help … make open data work better.”
Ultimately, this idea was a huge step in a positive direction when it comes to keeping the government accountable. That being said, the Open Data Barometer shows just how closed off America is when it comes to sharing information in a way that’s easy for the public to understand.
The website reports that of the 15 areas of information the government has, only 10 have data that is up to date and regularly updated, and only nine are easy to find. While this may seem like a significant number, if people are in charge of holding the government accountable, the number should be 15.
Another aspect of government transparency is the people seeking public office. It is widely known that Donald Trump did not release his tax returns during his 2016 campaign, and that has sparked great debate about how transparent candidates should be.
If you want to represent the American people, anything that the government can know, the people should know, too. Unless released information brings danger to a candidate, the people have a right to know exactly who they are voting for.
The people actually need to be seeking out and closely examining this information in order to maintain government transparency. The reason the government gets away with just claiming they release all information is that few people have the time to sift through the hundreds of pages pertaining to where tax money goes. We cannot continue to let the government get away with releasing an abundance of information, making it impossible to understand, just so they can claim transparency.
However, if more people start to pay attention to these things and call the government out on it, they may be forced to start releasing information in volumes and mediums that are more accessible to the public. Transparency is the greatest tool available to democracy to ensure that there is public accountability with regard to government expenditures and endeavors.
At the end of the day, America was founded on the idea that what makes us great is that everyone has a voice and a say, but how can you have an opinion on something when you are not fully informed? In the year 2020, while everyone is claiming they have 20/20 vision, let this be a plea to all Americans to call on their government to provide them with the vision needed to see what goes on behind closed doors.
If we want to live up to the great nation we claim to be, the power must be restored into the hands of the people. There must be greater transparency in what the government is doing. The people deserve 20/20 insight into the government that they control.