How do you negotiate with a President who cannot be trusted?

President Obama hides behind layers of deception in his showdown with Republicans. Most media won't expose them, but Ernest Istook does. Photo: Special to the Washington Times

WASHINGTON, October 10, 2013 — President Obama’s dishonesty is a huge barrier to resolving the stalemate in Washington.

How do you work with someone who weaves circles of deception around the truth, adding layer after layer after layer, much like Russian nesting dolls?


SEE RELATED: Obamacare has become the Un-Affordable Care Act


Obama wants to borrow more because he wants to spend more. His official budget in April proposed $160-billion in new spending this year alone, but he is being quiet about that for now. He refuses to negotiate, knowing that one demand would be that he wouldn’t get any part of that $160-billion.

Let me guide you through some more layers of Obama’s deceptions:

Hostage-taking

The President claims every Republican offer includes some dismantling of Obamacare. Yet multiple bills recently passed the House that are silent on Obamacare and would do nothing except fund separate and specific things like the military, our national parks, the National Institutes of Health, veterans’ benefits and more.


SEE RELATED: House Republicans have hurt their chance to defund Obamacare


Obama and Senate Leader Harry Reid incredibly dismiss this with labels that do not fit, declaring that it is “hostage-taking” and that “piecemeal” legislation is somehow like a gun to the head. Reporters nod robotically instead of asking obvious questions.

It is normal for government to be funded by a series of separate appropriation bills, each produced by one of the twelve appropriations subcommittees in each house of Congress. It is a sign of failure when that doesn’t happen and everything instead is packaged into a “take it or leave it” giant omnibus bill. That pushes decision-making into the back rooms.

Packing all funding into one bill is bad government because it cuts most members of Congress out of the process and concentrates decision-making into the hands of a few at the top. Presidents usually like this because it is less democratic and more autocratic and they can negotiate just with leaders. The practice minimizes the attention to each agency and program. It eliminates the normal opportunities to offer amendments to weed out the junk.

I spent 14 years in that process. I know.


SEE RELATED: We must shut down Obama’s “big lie” campaign, before it’s too late


We are kept in the dark on Obamacare

Millions ofAmericans are getting notices from insurance carriers with huge cost increases, often thousands of dollars a year, due to Obamacare. People are shocked. The impact is immense.

It would be prudent to assemble the data immediately and apply that knowledge in budget negotiations. But the White House says it’ll be a month, minimum, before they share information about enrollments in Obamacare. It sounds like another stonewall that will stretch out forever, much like Benghazi and the IRS scandal.

The details are all-important. For example:

We may see big enrollment numbers from people who receive subsidies but lousy sign-ups from everyone else. We must know which are which.

Reporters are giving Obama a pass to talk only about monthly premiums. What counts is our total annual cost, which combines premiums, plus the deductible we must satisfy, plus the co-pay percentage we must pay, typically 30% in the most-common Obamacare plans.

Bait-and-switch on debt and default

Obama is re-defining “debt” just like Bill Clinton re-defined “what is is.”

Our national debt is officially $16.7-trillion. The annual cost is $415-billion to pay the debt service. Those are official numbers, publicly available on the Treasury Department’s website.

Nothing else qualifies to be called our national debt. Nothing else involves keeping our commitments to the full faith and credit of the United States. And nothing threatens our ability to make our regular payments.

Fiscal year 2014 began October 1st. This year’s federal income according to the White House website is officially estimated by the Obama Administration to be $3.034-trillion.

So this year’s income is seven times what it take to service our debt. ($3.034-trillion divided by $415-billion equals 7.31.) The amounts are huge, but we can handle that.

After debt payments and even without borrowing a penny more we would have $2.619-trillion left to spend on other things. That is more than enough to pay our troops and to pay Social Security and to pay lots more.

No, it’s not enough to continue doing all that government has been doing. But those other things are not debts. Labeling them “debts” is a deliberate ploy to scare investors in T-bills and T-notes.

Those other things are new and ongoing expenses, the things that households cut back when they have financial problems. Fixed expenses like the mortgage are paid first; current expenses are reduced. And current expenses are not “debt.”

By mixing up the terms—with complicity of most media—Obama is spooking people and markets on purpose.

Our debt payments are fixed. But Congress and the President have not yet decided on total spending levels for FY2014. They should be negotiating that—and not upward as Obama wants but isn’t talking about.

The real issue is not defaulting on our debt. The real issues are how much government do we want, how much can we afford, and what reforms must we make? Only then should we decide if we should borrow money and, if so, how much. And how would it ever be paid back?

As a disciple of big government, Obama makes no distinction between debt and the horde of spending programs that he supports and wants to expand. So he confuses the two and treats them as identical. The media let him get away with it.

We are already over the debt limit

We actually reached our $16.7-trillion borrowing limit back in May. The claim of an October 17th deadline is a fiction used to conceal that we’re already over the limit.

Since May, the Treasury Department has used what they call “extraordinary measures,” known to the rest of mankind as cooking the books and accounting gimmicks. Essentially, they borrow money from federal retirement funds but don’t record it as borrowing. It must be paid back.

Any increase in the debt limit will immediately be tapped to make that repayment, meaning it’s immediately used to increase the official debt. After the government shutdowns of 1995-96, $139-billion of “extraordinary measures” had to be paid back. After the 2011 debt limit fight, the newly-raised debt ceiling was tapped by Treasury for an immediate $238-billion, mostly to repay these “extraordinary measures.”

It is another secret how much the Obama Administration has in fact borrowed since May while pretending that it hasn’t. A safe guess is at least $200-billion.

We should have used the time since May to reduce spending. Instead, we’ve been pushed into a deeper financial hole with that hidden debt, thanks to “extraordinary measures.”

The Dangerous 14th Amendment Ploy

It is total garbage to claim that Obama or any President has 14th Amendment authority to borrow money on their own. Borrowing requires express approval from Congress.

It is in our national interest for Obama to clearly and publicly agree that he has no such power. Instead, this week he merely said he doubts it would work if he exercised what he called “my power under the 14th Amendment.” He has no such power and it’s dangerous that he clings to the notion.

The 14th Amendment says zilch about giving borrowing authority to the President or to anybody. The Constitution’s sole grant of power to borrow is given to Congress in Article 1, Section 8. And no “emergency” or “inherent” borrowing power is otherwise created.

The 14th Amendment simply provides that the United States will never disavow its debt that is “authorized by law.” Banana republics disavow debt; we don’t. Banana republics allow dictators to borrow money on their own; we don’t. The 14th Amendment explicitly states that Congress (not the President) is empowered to legislate to enforce its provisions.

Because power grabs come naturally to Barack Obama, it’s scary that he might try to manufacture a 14th Amendment ploy, possibly in cahoots with the Federal Reserve. And that would indeed put at risk the full faith and credit of the United States.

These are some of the layers of deceptive arguments being used by President Obama and repeated by his surrogates.

Sadly, most media don’t bother to test Obama’s claims. He’s repeating the same things over and over because he’s getting away with it. He’s enjoying the bully pulpit because he enjoys bullying tactics.


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More from Ernest Istook: Knowing the Inside
 
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Ernest Istook

Ernest Istook spent 25 years in public office, including 14 years in Congress. He was rated one of the top 25 conservatives in the U.S. House of Representatives. Then was a Heritage Foundation fellow and a fellow at Harvard's Insitute of Politics, where he led a study group on Propaganda in American Politics Today. 

Now as a radio host and a commentator, Ernest aims to expose Washington's gimmicks--to help you avoid the pitfalls. He brings clarity out of the confusion. 

Native to Texas, Ernest transplanted to Oklahoma after graduating from Baylor University.

Contact Ernest Istook

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