Open the curtains on cliff talks

Published: November 28, 2012
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Conservatives are worried that the negotiations that will begin this week to avoid the “fiscal cliff” will end in disaster. Tax increases that will weaken the economy could be combined with spending cuts that never materialize in an agreement that will leave many Republicans — especially those who have signed the “no net new taxes” pledge promoted by Americans for Tax Reform — vulnerable to public outrage, and indeed to primary challenges in the midterm elections.

The way to avoid that outcome may be for conservatives to insist on the transparency and openness that Barack Obama has spent much of his career promoting but has almost never delivered in practice. The White House has asserted false claims of executive privilege to avoid questions on the Justice Department's Fast and Furious gun-running scandal. The Washington Post reported last year that a large number of requests for public records elicited no material at all from the administration. The same Barack Obama who as a 2008 candidate promised that health-care negotiations would be shown on C-SPAN instead cobbled together the abomination of Obamacare behind closed doors. ...

Americans for Tax Reform's founder, Grover Norquist, who originated the anti-tax-increase pledge, says that having an honest, open debate will promote political accountability. “The party that doesn't want the budget debate to be transparent can be held to account,” he told me. “The American people should get to see the sausage being made and get to read the contract before it's signed. They shouldn't have to wait a year for Bob Woodward to write a book about what really happened behind closed doors.”

But calling for transparency isn't enough. Democrats have every incentive not to agree to transparency, but conservatives should not let the issue fall by the wayside. They must insist on an open process as the fiscal cliff approaches. ...

— John Fund, writing Monday at National Review Online.



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