The Treasury Department is launching a new interactive website on Tuesday that officials say will bring unprecedented amounts of transparency to the administration's financial stability, housing, and economic recovery programs.
The site, FinancialStability.gov, includes a bevy of data, charts, contracts and other Treasury-related information. Of particular pride to its designers, the site includes an interactive map of the country that shows which state's banks have received what amount of money through the Capital Purchase Program (a part of the TARP). Localizing the program even further: a simple click of a particular state provides a list of when that transaction took place and how much was paid for specific assets. As for March 2009, banks in 48 states had received investments "ranging from as small as about $301,000 to as large as $25 billion." The two states left out: Montana and New Mexico.
For the more dogged watchdogs, the site also links to the physical contract signed by each institution and the Treasury and a published list of bank lending surveys, which, the site's designers say, will become "a much more robust way to track bank lending." (Find anything interesting in the data? Drop us a note.)
Hoping to make the text a bit easier to navigate, the site's creators included a list of economic data charts and a "Decoder" section -- "a brief list of frequently used terms and acronyms that you may find throughout FinancialStability.gov" - as well as a list of the specific programs being overseen by Treasury:
Capital Assistance Program
Consumer and Business Lending Initiative
Making Home Affordable Program
Public-Private Investment Program
Capital Purchase Program (CPP)
Asset Guarantee Program (AGP)
Targeted Investment Program (TIP)
Automotive Industry Financing Program
All told, the site tries to strike a more educational tone -- as opposed to, say, political -- walking visitors through some notably complex topics of finance. "To protect taxpayers and ensure that every dollar is directed toward lending and economic revitalization, the Financial Stability Plan will institute a new era of accountability, transparency and conditions on the financial institutions receiving funds," reads the About section.
But that doesn't mean that the authors didn't frame the administration's policies in the best possible light. Take, for instance, the description of the public-private investment program designed to purchase toxic assets from the banks.
"This approach is superior to the alternatives of either hoping for banks to gradually work these assets off their books or of the government purchasing the assets directly," reads the site. "Simply hoping for banks to work legacy assets off over time risks prolonging a financial crisis, as in the case of the Japanese experience. But if the government acts alone in directly purchasing legacy assets, taxpayers will take on all the risk of such purchases, along with the additional risk that taxpayers will overpay if government employees are setting the price for those assets."