What would a data-driven Congress look like?
Recently I’ve seen two very different versions of what a more data-driven Congress would look like, both emerging from the recent cruddy Cromnibus bill mess.
First, there’s this Bloomberg article, written by the editors, about using data to produce evidence on whether a given policy is working or not. Given what I know about how data is produced, and how definitions of success are politically manipulated, I don’t have much hope for this idea.
Second, there was a reader’s comments on this New York Times article, also about the Cromnibus bill. Namely, the reader was calling on the New York Times to not only explore a few facts about what was contained in the bill, but lay it out with more numbers and more consistency. I think this is a great idea. What if, when Congress gave us a shitty bill, we could see stuff like:
- how much money is allocated to each thing, both raw dollars and as a percentage of the whole bill,
- who put it in the omnibus bill,
- the history of that proposed spending, and the history of voting,
- which lobbyists were pushing it, and who gets paid by them, and ideally
- all of this would be in an easy-to-use interactive.
That’s the kind of data that I’d love to see. Data journalism is an emerging field, and we might not be there yet, but it’s something to strive for.