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Government Goes Online January 26, 2009

Posted by Liz Borkowski in Blogging.

There are plenty of signs of change already from the new administration, but here’s one I almost missed: The White House has a blog (hat tip to Ezra Klein). It’s not much like the blogs I’m used to reading – there are no comments, and the content seems to be mostly press releases – but it could be a good resource for keeping up with government news. And it shows that the Obama administration recognizes the importance of the blog medium.

There’s already plenty of blogging by government entities, and one particularly noteworthy blog has been Congressional Budget Office’s
Director’s Blog
. It’s written, as you might expect, by the CBO Director, and until recently that was Peter Orszag, who stepped down after Obama picked him to head the White House Office of Management and Budget. Douglas W. Elmendorf started his term as the new CBO Director on January 22nd, and I hope he continues the tradition Orszag started: writing about the results of CBO number-crunching – which include budget projections and estimates of the long-term impacts of tax proposals – while also providing some welcome perspective on challenging issues like healthcare. For instance, here’s his explanation of why the current economic problems shouldn’t displace healthcare reform on the national agenda:

Although it may not seem immediately relevant given our current difficulties, it will be crucial to address the nation’s looming fiscal gap — which is driven primarily by rising health care costs — as the economy eventually recovers from this current downturn. Indeed, our ability to address our current economic difficulties (through both financial market interventions and potential additional fiscal stimulus) would be severely impaired if investors were not so willing to invest substantial sums in Treasury securities without charging much higher interest rates. That willingness reflects the (currently accurate) view among investors that Treasury securities are extremely safe investments.

If we fail to put the nation on a sounder fiscal course over the next few decades, though, we will ultimately reach a point where investors would lose confidence and no longer be as willing to purchase Treasury debt at anything but exorbitant interest rates. If that were to occur, we would lack the kind of maneuvering room that we currently enjoy to address problems in the financial markets and the economy. So if you think the current economic crisis is serious, and it is, imagine what it would be like if we didn’t have the ability to undertake aggressive and innovative policy interventions because creditors were effectively unwilling to lend substantial additional sums to the Federal government…

That’s a straightforward explanation about why we should care about a policy issue. Maybe this kind of blogging can increase voters’ interest in what the government’s doing between election seasons.



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