The Times And The Transcripts

The New York Times has published an editorial calling upon Hillary Clinton to release the transcripts of her speeches to Goldman Sachs.  It’s a good editorial and I’m glad they’ve done it, because maybe now she will finally do the right thing and release them.

This is a simple matter of transparency, which is one of those words that politicians like Hillary Clinton like to throw around, but don’t really mean.  When large Wall Street financial institutions are a political issue — and they are — and one of the leading presidential candidates has given three speeches to one of those institutions for a grand total of $675,000, transparency demands that that candidate release the transcripts of what they said.  It’s not a tough question, and the answer should be obvious.

27CclintonBHillary Clinton’s response is that we should trust her when she says she’ll be tough on Wall Street, and that she’ll release her transcripts if every other candidate, Republican and Democrat, releases the transcripts of every speech they’ve ever given for money.  That’s not exactly a leadership position, is it?   And Clinton apparently doesn’t recognize that one way you build trust is through transparency.  If Clinton released the transcripts and they showed nothing but her observations about international affairs, it wouldn’t undercut her attempt to convince voters that she will be a vigorous fighter against Wall Street excesses.  Of course, the apparent problem is that she said something more to the Goldman Sachs people — and that something more is what voters should be entitled to see.

Hillary Clinton seems to think that she is getting unfairly singled out.  I’m not aware of any other candidate who received so much money for so few speeches, or who, with their spouse, has amassed millions of dollars in personal wealth largely from giving speeches.  It raises questions that are unique to Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton.  The fact that Hillary Clinton isn’t willing to answer those questions tells us something about her secretiveness and her character, and it’s not positive.

 

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Delays, Delays . . . And Accountability

Today the Obama Administration announced — through a blog posting, of all things — that the “employer mandate” aspect of the Affordable Care Act law, also known as “Obamacare,” will be delayed by a year.

The “employer mandate” provision is supposed to penalize employers with more than 50 employees that do not provide certain minimum health insurance coverage for employees.  The provision was supposed to take effect in 2014, but now it will take effect in 2015.  The one-year delay was announced in a blog posting by an official in the Treasury Department.  The Obama Administration says the delay is the result of a “dialogue” with businesses about reporting requirements.  The “individual mandate,” on the other hand, remains unchanged.

Of course, people are already questioning whether the delay was politically motivated, with the Administration hoping to avoid fallout from business resistance to the new law.  My questions, however, are more fundamental.  The Affordable Care Act is supposed to be a federal statute.  How can the Administration simply delay the effect of the law through administrative fiat?  What kind of law is it that can be delayed through a blog posting by some functionary in an administrative department?

For that matter, doesn’t it seem awfully questionable to announce something so economically significant through a Treasury Department blog posting?  Is it possible that the Administration hoped that the announcement would escape any notice?  What’s the White House press secretary for, if not to address this kind of issue, publicly and transparently?

Set aside your views about the Affordable Care Act for a minute.  From a strict accountability standpoint, shouldn’t a decision affecting the implementation of a major, controversial statute be announced in a more open and honest way, in a context where the news media might be able to ask a question or two?  It seems that way to me.