A trillion here, a trillion there, pretty soon you're talking about real money.
Everett Dirksen's famous line about federal spending in the 1960s could use an update to account for inflation and the massive amount of spending approved by Congress earlier this year — $2.4 trillion — in a desperate attempt to keep the economy afloat as the coronavirus pandemic hit these shores.
That figure represents more than 10 percent of the nation's gross domestic product in 2019, real money indeed. Such serious spending deserves serious supervision.
But the Trump administration is aggressively blocking such oversight.
Last week Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told a Senate committee that the names of loan recipients and the amounts disbursed as part of the $600 billion-plus Paycheck Protection Program are “proprietary information” and will not be made public.
This week the inspector generals delegated by Congress to watch over the pandemic response spending notified four congressional committees that the Treasury Department has deemed nearly half the coronavirus spending to be exempt from disclosure.
This sort of nonsense was predictable, considering President Donald Trump's chronic aversion to oversight in general and his specific "I am the oversight" denunciation of the accountability rules Congress placed on the coronavirus aid.
Almost as soon as the CARES Act was signed into law, Trump fired the inspector general designated to head the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, a clear signal that this president wants nobody watching what he does with that money.
There is, and should be, nothing proprietary or confidential about businesses receiving millions of taxpayer dollars. And there is nothing shameful or embarrassing about a small business applying for and getting that assistance. The PPP is run by the Small Business Administration, and its other loan programs are public.
Congress clearly intended this massive bailout to be public and transparent. It should not stand for the secrecy being imposed by Mnuchin at the president's behest. Ronald Reagan said of arms control: "Trust but verify." The same should be said of the pandemic business bailout.