After sending up a budget in February that would only add to government spending and deficits, President Obama has now come around to the view that "it is a moral imperative to tackle our debt and deficits in a serious way." Both sides have to make sacrifices, he says. It is time to "eat our peas." The president's evident purpose is to put the blame on Republicans for failing to come to an agreement.
But the absence of any written budgetary documents and the closed-door nature of the negotiating sessions make it impossible to tell which side is being "serious" and which side is being intransigent. Instead of specific proposals, scored by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and open to examination by press and public, we get vague generalities about "trillions" of dollars in supposed savings based on who-knows-what changes in policy.
It is insane to think that tax and spending proposals of this complexity can be negotiated at this level of generality and put into statutory language in a matter of weeks. Didn't the health-care fiasco teach us anything about the importance of transparent and responsible legislative process?