During the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama promised to lead the most transparent administration in U.S. history. Unfortunately for the American people, he has failed to deliver on his promise.
The Obama administration has approached its governing responsibilities as follows: Isolate a problem, proclaim an urgent need to address it, propose legislation and then try to ram it through Congress before people have a chance to read it or appreciate the exact effect it will have on the nation.
We already know that the president’s signature “accomplishment” - the sweeping changes to the nation’s health care system known familiarly as Obamacare - is not working out as advertised. During the debate leading up to the bill, the president promised over and over again that anyone who liked the health insurance he already had would be able to keep it and premiums would fall more than $2,500 for the average family under the new law. We now know both to be provably false. Premiums increased 9 percent in the first year of Obamacare, and more than 1 million Americans already have lost the coverage they wanted to keep.
These effects of Obamacare could have been more precisely determined, disseminated and avoided if the president hadn’t rushed the bill through without transparency or the necessary time for the Founders’ vision of a highly deliberative process.
The most recent example, and there are plenty of others, is the approach he has taken to the American Jobs Act, which he argues is needed to get America back to work. He wants Congress to pass it now - as he repeats like a broken record - without the public having had an adequate chance to look it over. Most people are unaware, for example, that there is a provision in the proposed bill that would create a new cause of action allowing people to sue a prospective employer if they believe they were turned down for a position because they were unemployed at the time they applied for it.
Such a law, if it were to go into effect, would be a welcome boon to the nation’s trial lawyers but would be a looming liability over anyone seeking to hire new employees. The cost of litigation, never mind the potential financial judgments, would be enough to make any business - small or large - fearful of hiring anyone, let alone any of the more than 9 percent of Americans who, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, don’t have a job but are looking for one. Talk about unintended consequences.
This same urgent approach was applied by the administration to its “green energy” agenda, which amounted to little more than shoveling money out the door to companies operating commercial activities of which it approved. Everyone now knows about Solyndra, the politically well-connected California-based solar company that got a half-billion dollars in loan guarantees from the U.S. Department of Energy only to go belly-up just a couple of years later, leaving more than 1,100 workers unemployed.
Any serious due diligence, it now seems clear, would have suggested the company was not a good place for an investment backed by U.S. taxpayers, but in the rush to promote the politically driven green agenda, caution was tossed to the political winds.
Now more than ever it is clear what former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel meant when he said a good crisis should never be allowed to go to waste. It was not just an excuse for growing the government; it was an excuse to grow the government recklessly in ways that rewarded political supporters and without regard to the effectiveness of a particular program.
It is clear that the operations of the federal government and the legislative process need to be more transparent and deliberative, something both parties can hopefully work to bring about in the days and weeks and months ahead. The debt-reduction supercommittee is a great place to start.
Colin Hanna is president of Let Freedom Ring.