WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 19: (L-R) Acting U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro of the Government Accountability Office; Earl Devaney, chairman of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board; Deputy Education Secretary Anthony Wilder Miller and Deputy Transportation Secretary John Porcari are sworn in before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee November 19, 2009 in Washington, DC. The committee held a hearing on 'Tracking the Money: How Recovery Act Recipients Account for their Use of Stimulus Dollars. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

What exactly is transparency? In simple terms it means you can see though it reveling what’s underneath. In government and business terms it means you can only see through the parts we want you to see through.

Let’s Start With Numbers

The numbers that come out of Washington are mind boggling, both in their size and inaccuracy. Let’s tackle just a few of them.

  • GDP: Gross Domestic Product – the total of all the goods and services produced in the US over a given period. Each month this number is reported then within a few days it’s revised up or down. The first quarter of 2014 GDP was -2.1%, and in quarter 2 it was +4.2%. That’s a 6% swing in 3 months. Seems like a lot.
  • Unemployment: - Unemployment dropping used to be a positive sign. It meant more people were working. But we now know that much of the loss is people who have just stopped looking for work and have given up. Current reported unemployment is 6.2%. When we look at the actual numbers receiving benefits we find there are 9.5 million unemployed according to the government. But the actual number of unemployed is closer to 18.8 million. Is it any wonder we no longer have faith in the 6.2 number?
  • Inflation: - As of the end of August the inflation rate was 1.99%. A nice low number that should make us all feel good. Until you realize that that number does not include food or energy. Food and energy are excluded because they are both traded on the open markets and not always susceptible to supply and demand forces. But you still buy food and gas. Another bogus number.
  • Poverty Rates: According to government numbers we have 47 million people living in poverty. There are 118 million people, almost half our population, who are receiving some form of government assistance. There are 126 poverty programs that provide enough assistance in some states were it pays more to be on the government take than to work. Over 50 years and almost one trillion dollars spent each year the poverty needle has barely moved.

Some Final Thoughts

Poverty rates are based on actual income not government extras. Things like Medicaid, food stamps, temporary aid to dependent families, school lunch programs, utility payment assistance, section 8 housing are not counted as income. When all those things are factored in poverty takes on a whole new look. Looking for work is not as immediate when all the extras are added in.

The bottom line is that government has no problem giving the illusion of transparency while they jury-rig the figures to place a positive spin to make us all feel better. If unemployment is 12.4% rather than 6.2% shouldn’t we be told that?

Is it any wonder that our faith in government is diminishing by the day?

Transparency, unfortunately, is not a synonym for truth.