Democrats’ Dereliction

Mike Needham
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Posted: Jun 27, 2011 10:35 AM
Democrats’ Dereliction
After the collapse of the Biden-led debt talks, President Obama is stepping in. On Monday, the President will meet separately with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

And you guessed, those meetings will take place behind closed doors, just like the failed Biden negotiations. Republicans should reject these secret talks and demand all negotiations regarding the debt ceiling take place in public.

This is not a novel idea.

In 2008, then-Senator Barack Obama pledged his proposed health care overhaul (which incidentally did not include an individual mandate) would be different from those of the past. He told Americans, “That's what I will do in bringing all parties together, not negotiating behind closed doors, but bringing all parties together, and broadcasting those negotiations on C-SPAN so that the American people can see what the choices are."

Then-Senator Obama was right. Americans deserve to see what the choices are and where their elected officials stand. Apparently, now that he has made the White House his residence, his views have changed.

In this case, the President’s closed-door meetings are an effort to save face because he has no choice to present to concerned Americans. Think about the President’s February budget proposal, or lack thereof. It failed to include any of the substantive reforms put forth by his own deficit commission. Erskine Bowles, who chaired that commission, said the President’s budget goes “nowhere near where [it] will have to go to resolve our fiscal nightmare.”

A presidential budget is supposed to represent the foundation of an administration’s policy agenda. This administration is simply unwilling to reveal their policy agenda.

In April, House Republicans passed a bold and detailed budget plan, President Obama asked for a redo. In a speech, he laid out some vague ideas to what a budget should look like. But it wasn’t a start to negotiations, it was just a speech. As Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf said, “We don’t estimate speeches. We need much more specificity then was provided in that speech for us to do our analysis.”

Of course, President Obama is not the only liberal in Washington derelict in his duty. His former Senate colleagues have not passed a budget in 789 days. In fact, Senator Reid said it would be “foolish” for his party to propose a budget.

It is extremely difficult to negotiate in good faith when your counterpart has shown no desire to put forward a plan. In the interest of saving America for our children and grandchildren, let’s lay out their position for them.

Thanks to the folks at the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, we can surmise where those on the left would take our country. Reviewing the proposals from the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Center for American Progress and the Economic Policy Institute is instructive.

The narrative associated with the plans should not come as a surprise, as it jives quite well with President Obama’s policies. The federal government must invest (heavily) in America to spur economic growth, create jobs and generate wealth. It must also take a more direct role in our daily lives, ensuring the scales of justice tip in a certain direction.

The numbers are stark: spending will remain high, an average of 24.9% of GDP (about our current level of spending) and taxes will soar, an average of 23.7% of GDP (nearly one-third higher than the historic average of 18%).

Nowhere is that more evident than in the policies surrounding health care. One organization proposed to strengthen Obamacare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). The board of unelected bureaucrats will try to control spending on Medicare. How? Rationing. Talk about changing Medicare as we know it.

President Obama apparently thinks this is a good idea, even as many House Democrats have began grumbling that the board was a mistake. (Wasn’t the whole law a mistake?)

Unlike their ideological counterparts in government, these organizations put their plans on the table. If President Obama’s plan looked anything remotely like these, it is no wonder he prefers closed meetings and backroom deals.

Americans have rejected this big government, high tax approach. And with an eye towards his reelection effort, the last thing he wants to do is propose more unpopular policies.

Even as we approach the administration’s arbitrary August 2 deadline for Armageddon, the administration remains silent. President Obama has an obligation to the American people to put a plan on the table. He also has an obligation tell Americans what his administration plans to do if the debt ceiling is not raised by August 2. Will they pay interest on our debt? Social Security? Our troops? Will they continue to implement Obamacare and fund the EPA?

Americans deserve to know where the President stands. Anything less is the height of irresponsibility.