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Those last two numbers reflect another reason for making the talks public. The president and liberals have spoken at great length about taxing “millionaires and billionaires” as part of the budget balancing negotiations. At some point, that euphemism would have to have a hard number attached to it. Is it really about taxing people who earn in excess of a million dollars a year? Or is it closer to the $250,000 that would encompass substantially more Americans, including the small business owners who are the backbone of America’s job-creating engine? As the above poll indicates, 57 percent of Americans aren’t sure.
Public negotiations would also remove one other sadly predictable element from the debate. On Friday, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) once again pulled the race card from the political deck. ”I do not understand what I think is the maligning and maliciousness [toward] this president,” said Lee, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. “Why is he different? And in my community, that is the question that we raise. In the minority community that is question that is being raised. Why is this president being treated so disrespectfully? Why has the debt limit been raised 60 times? Why did the leader of the Senate continually talk about his job is to bring the president down to make sure he is unelected?” She then got to the point with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. “Read between the lines,” she added.
Sheila Jackson Lee has a conveniently short memory. Another president was heavily criticized for raising the debt ceiling. In 2006, a certain senator minced no words in that regard:
The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our government’s reckless fiscal policies. Over the past 5 years, our federal debt has increased by $3.5 trillion to $8.6 trillion. That is “trillion” with a “T.” That is money that we have borrowed from the Social Security trust fund, borrowed from China and Japan, borrowed from American taxpayers. And over the next 5 years, between now and 2011, the president’s budget will increase the debt by almost another $3.5 trillion[.]
The president was George W. Bush. The senator doing the criticizing was Barack Obama. Sadly, Mr. Obama underestimated the carnage even as he was a huge contributor to it: this president has increased the national debt three times faster than his predecessor. Moreover, in order for the U.S. Treasury to maintain its ability to borrow through the 2012 elections, it will be necessary to raise the debt ceiling to $16.7 trillion. Thus from 2006-2012 the national debt will have nearly doubled.
Imagine such numbers being revealed publicly. Imagine both parties being forced to take their case directly to the American people, absent the spin currently being applied. Even if such a debate could never be realized, imagine how instructive it would be to see who favored such open negotiations and opposed them. Many members of both parties might be involved. But there is one person who can’t possibly be against public debates without revealing the utter hypocrisy of such a position — for the second time. This video is a montage of eight occasions on which president Barack Obama promised that negotiations on the health care bill would be broadcast on C-SPAN “so the public will be part of the conversation and will see the choices that are being made.”
The health care wrangling was the epitome of closed-door, bad faith negotiations, which is one of the reasons among many it remains hugely unpopular with the American public. The debt ceiling negotiations present a grand opportunity for the president and his party to rectify the error of passing a bill first, “so you can find out what’s in it,” after the fact. It would also give Mr. Obama the chance to connect with same public he claims “is not paying close attention to the ins and outs of how a Treasury option goes.”
Perhaps Americans would if they could. Just as importantly, they would no longer have to rely on the media’s “interpretation” of those negotiations. No doubt, if those interpretations are accurate, Americans would be bedazzled by the president’s coolness under fire and his oft-praised oratorical skills. They would also be equally disgusted with the mindless stubbornness (and possible racism) of his Republican counterparts. Or not.
Either way, pubic hearings on the most critical issue facing the nation would be a win-win for the electorate. For a president who once promised Americans he would make his administration the most open and transparent in history, it’s a no-brainer.
Arnold Ahlert is a contributing columnist to the conservative website JewishWorldReview.com.
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