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Taxpayers Have a Right to Know How Their Money Is Being Spent:
An Open Letter to the United States Congress

February 10, 2012

Dear Member of Congress:       

   On behalf of the 362,000 members of the National Taxpayers Union (NTU), I urge you to support the “Taxpayers Right to Know Act.” Introduced as H.R. 3609 by Rep. Lankford (R-OK) and as S. 1957 by Sen. Coburn (R-OK), this bipartisan legislation would increase transparency and accountability in government by requiring every federal agency to disclose basic information about the cost and performance of the programs they administer.

   The Government Accountability Office released a report last year highlighting the extensive waste and duplication in the federal government. Although the Obama Administration has taken several steps to seek out and eliminate misspent tax dollars, by the White House’s own estimation there is more work to be done. “Any waste of taxpayer dollars is unacceptable whether we are in surplus or deficit, but it is particularly offensive in a time of such fiscal challenges,” said former Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew. “[I]t is critical that we continue to root out waste, identify ways to do more with less, and ensure the tax dollars of America’s families are put to good use.”

   The Taxpayers Right to Know Act would help to advance this cause by equipping citizens and lawmakers alike with a powerful investigative tool. Specifically the bill would require each government agency to provide and publish vital fiscal details, including an itemized description of the programs it offers. Each program would, in turn, list its administrative costs, total expenditures for its services, its latest performance reviews, and the amount of unspent or unobligated funds being held. Such facts will make it easier for concerned Americans to conduct well- informed examinations of federal programs that interest them. Likewise, lawmakers and agencies themselves will be able to better recognize inefficiencies on a systematic basis, thus enabling them to reduce expenditures while maintaining services.

   With the United States debt now exceeding $15 trillion and few signs of substantial fiscal reforms on the immediate horizon, Washington certainly owes taxpayers a basic explanation of where their tax dollars are going. NTU commends Rep. Lankford and Sen. Coburn for their work to increase accountability in the federal government and we encourage all Members of Congress to cosponsor their bill, the Taxpayers Right to Know Act.


Brandon Greife
Federal Government Affairs Manager