By Kathleen Riley
When Obama entered the White House, in 2009, he vowed to make the political process more transparent and stray from the typical Washington, D.C., back room deals. This promise did not last long after his inauguration. In March 2009, he signed an emergency stimulus bill into law without informing the public of what the stimulus package contained. Obama again slipped into the shadows to negotiate a healthcare reform bill in 2010.
This time it is no different. Fresh off the election campaign trail, Obama enters discussions with Republican and Democratic leaders to discuss a solution to the debt problem. The economy, taxes, and managing federal debt were among the leading American voters’ concerns during the election cycle, and the politicians heard them loud and clear.
Monday, the GOP proposed a bill that was rejected because it did not demand enough tax revenue from the countries top 2% wealthiest individuals. With the fiscal cliff looming closer, the pressure is on for both Barack Obama and John Boehner to reach an agreement. If they fail to reach an agreement before the New Year, economists claim it could send the U.S. spiraling backward into recession.
In an attempt to get down to business, Obama and Boehner discussed the issue one on one over the phone on Wednesday evening. Like the previous closed-door discussions of the fiscal cliff, this one did not materialize any solution. Instead the conversation resulted in a standstill with the President mandating that tax hikes on America’s wealthiest be included in the stimulus while Republicans remain staunchly against that.
Both Republicans and Democrats do not want to tumble down a fiscal cliff, so there is some common ground to make it work. But what is the need for the secrecy and standoffs that threaten the future of our nation? Why are we hearing so much about the reaction to the negotiations in the media, but being kept in the dark as to the actual specifics of the proposals and discussions?
Tim Cook would suggest that both sides are using the media to set a policy agenda by going through news media to try and support or signal to their colleagues. Obama signaled through the media his willingness to negotiate his fiscal cliff plan with Boehner and the Republicans on November 9 when he said that he was not ‘wedded to every detail’ of his plan. After each private talk, both sides have emerged remaining steadfast in their opinions, citing the other’s unwillingness to cooperate. By saying this, Obama and Boehner are attempting to frame the situation for the media that favors their party’s plan. Here are some of the remarks made after the phone call on Wednesday:
Boehner said, “The president talks about a balanced approach, but he’s rejected spending cuts that he has supported previously and refuses to identify serious spending cuts he is willing to make today. This is preventing us from reaching an agreement.” Obama retorted with, “I’m not going to sign any package that somehow prevents the tax rate from going up for folks in the top two percent.” Boehner fired back Friday saying, “Instead of reforming the tax code and cutting spending, the president wants to raise tax rates. But even if the president got the tax rate hike that he wanted, understand that we would continue to see trillion-dollar deficits for as far as the eye can see.”
Despite their shady connotation, back door deals allow for concessions and requests to be made without being under the public eye. While the public sees their representatives supporting their opinion, conversations about how much each candidate is willing to concede in exchange for some issue they will not budge. An agreement can be made faster if the politicians do not have to worry about losing constituents based on their concessions and requests. Instead, both partake in this media relations game until an actual decision is reached.