In Praise of Standardized Data for Congressional Oversight
Alex Pollock, distinguished senior fellow at the R Street Institute, spoke of the value of standardized financial data on federal government activities. He observed to attendees of the Financial Data Summit, that reports are useful certainly, but…
“[W]hy not have multiple interpretative perspectives on the same data, instead of only one? This is a fine example of the difference between one perspective—GAAP—and other possibly insightful perspectives on the same financial object. Why not have as many perspectives readily available as prove to be useful?
“We are meeting today in Washington, DC, a city full of equestrian statues of winning Civil War generals. (The losing side is naturally not represented.) Think, for example, of the statues of General Grant or Sheridan or Sherman or Logan—all astride their steeds. Perhaps you can picture these heroic statues in imagination.
“I like to ask people to consider this question: What is the true view of a statue? Is it the one from the front, the top, the side (which side?), or what? Every view is a true view, but each is partial. Even the view of such an equestrian statue directly from behind—featuring the horse’s derriere—is one true view among others. It is not the most attractive one, perhaps, but it may make you think of some people you know.
“Likewise, what is the true view of a company, a bank, a government agency, a regulated activity, or a customer relationship? Every document is one view.”