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Tag Archive: SubsidyScope

Government Data and the Case for Not Running Me Over


Over the weekend I was clearing out my RSS, and was pleasantly surprised to find Sunlight's work in an unexpected place. TheWashCycle is my favorite DC bike blog, and its author has started a series of posts designed to address arguments that are commonly faced by cycling advocates. One of those is that cyclists don't pay for roads — that the gas tax pays for them — and consequently folks on bikes aren't entitled to the use of roads, or are less entitled to space on the road than motorists, or shouldn't have a say in how roads are built.

As it turns out, the assumption that cyclists don't pay for roads is wrong. The WashCycle post linked to some work that we did for Pew's Subsidyscope project, which shows that gas taxes are paying for a decreasing share of our roads. In 2007 taxes and fees related to auto use covered only half the bill. The shortfall is made up by general revenues and debt — and though the specifics of the story play out differently from state to state it's safe to say that cyclists pay taxes that help build roads.

Share of Highway Funds by Source

I mention all this not simply to highlight some pro-cyclist propaganda — though of course, as a daily bike commuter, I'm glad to do that, too — but rather to point this out as an example of what open government data can accomplish.

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Search new Subsidyscope database on federal aid to nonprofits


Subsidyscope nonprofit funding map.

In fiscal year 2008, the federal government gave $38 billion in grants to nonprofit entities and spent $10 billion on non-competed contracts with nonprofits. Billions were also taken in tax expenditures benefiting nonprofits, representing foregone revenues of $50 billion in 2008.

Excluding contracts, that means that the average U.S. household spent $430 a year on programs to nonprofit entities such as universities, hospitals and charities in 2008.

Loans and loan guarantees made by the government, known as risk transfers, also represent a subsidy. In 2008, the federal government lent at more than $7 billion to ...

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Data Quality Deserves to be Tackled on Its Own


Last week Clay wrote about how we'll be evaluating /open pages released under the OGD. The post ended with a series of considerations that we think are important: completeness, primacy, timeliness, accessibility, machine readability, availability without registration, being non-proprietary, freedom from licensing restrictions, permanence and obtainability.

One thing is conspicuously missing from the list, though: quality.

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The $333 Million Grant That Wasn’t


crash-dummyTo understand how maddeningly inaccurate data on can be, one need look no further than the $333 million grant that was awarded last year to Dynamic Research Inc. of Torrance, Calif., by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In fact, a Dynamic Research employee told us, the vehicle R-and-D firm is not expecting a third of a billion dollars from NHTSA. The grant is more like $1 million for research on advanced crash-avoidance technology. But the casual user of, maintained by the Office of Management and Budget, would have no way of knowing this.

The problem ...

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Investment Ratings Tank for Home Loan Banks


They hold $1.3 trillion in assets and, chances are, you've never heard of them.

The Federal Home Loan Banks, or FHLBs, were created during the Depression, and are meant to ensure that if the economy were to tank, commercial banks would still have the money to issue home loans. A cooperative of 12 regional banks, the system works like this: banks, thrifts, credit unions and insurers (more than 8,100 across the country) become members and put up collateral; the FHLBs borrow money and lend it to them at a discount.

So where does the subsidy come ...

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