New Transparency

Ed at Hot Air draws attention to the casual divisiveness of top Obama economic advisor Austan Goolsbee, but Goolsbee’s exchange about tax policy also highlights the Obama campaign’s penchant for secrecy.  Note the twists and turns of this ABC story about the fight over tax policy (I’ve added some emphasis):

Although the number of non-working beneficiaries would have been just a “sliver” under the original understanding of Obama’s plan, Goolsbee said the Democratic nominee’s economic team decided to add a work requirement to it in order to block McCain from being able to characterize any aspect of his plan as “welfare.”

“When did this change? I’m just curious,” an incredulous Holtz-Eakin asked Goolsbee.

“About two weeks ago,” replied Goolsbee, adding that when the proposal was announced in September 2007, 98 percent of its benefits went to workers.

The work requirement on Obama’s universal mortgage credit was never announced publicly, prompting Holtz-Eakin to suggest that it was just made up for purposes of the CFR debate.

“I think they just made it up,” Holtz-Eakin told ABC News. “They will say anything in the moment. This is like trying to pin Jello to the wall.”

During a Tuesday conference call with reporters, Holtz-Eakin mocked Goolsbee’s claim that Obama could have changed his plan two weeks ago in response to McCain attacks that did not start until after Obama met with Joe “The Plumber” Wurzelbacher nine days ago.

“What we saw today was just another example of the Obama campaign being willing to say potentially anything in order to avoid the tough questions of the moment,” said Holtz-Eakin.

Goolsbee told ABC News that he was not exactly sure when the conversation among Obama economic advisers took place. He said it’s possible that it did not take place until a week ago when McCain started hammering Obama on the issue. Goolsbee said it was also possible that it happened earlier since some conservative columnists were criticizing Obama on this point before the Republican nominee started making the line of attack himself.

Goolsbee argued that his Tuesday reference to adding a work requirement referred not to a change in policy but rather a change in what the Obama campaign was making explicit.

“Our thing has never been welfare,” said Goolsbee. “It was always our intention that there was a work requirement.”

Asked how the Obama campaign made its work requirement on the mortgage credit explicit before Tuesday, Goolsbee said, “We made it explicit among ourselves,” adding that he thinks Obama economic adviser Jason Furman might have made this point to reporters in recent interviews conducted on background.

Goolsbee suggested that one of the reasons why the Obama campaign did not previously feel a need to make its work requirement explicit is that the refundable tax credits which exist in current U.S. tax law — the Earned Income Tax Credit, the child credit, and the health coverage for displaced workers credit — are all tied to either current work (in the case of the first two) are recent work (in the case of the third).

“We made it explicit among ourselves.”  Yeah, that’s openness.


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