Jeffrey Sachs says the administration needs to lead the way forward on important legislation instead of brokering deals that emerge through a "lobby-infested bargaining process" in Congress:
Looking for Change in the Beltway: The Need for Open Process, by Jeffrey D. Sachs, Scientific American: When President Barack Obama promised change, he put two kinds on the agenda. The first was substantive change: reforms to key sectors of the economy, such as health care, climate change, financial markets and arms procurement.
The second was process change: improvements to how public policies are shaped and how decisions over public funding are made. Against the odds, the Obama administration is making some progress on the first—but at the sacrifice of the second.
The important health care legislation inching its way through Congress ... will help expand the number of Americans covered by health care insurance and will limit some of the abuses by the private insurance industry in denying coverage and reimbursements to the public. Similarly, climate change legislation is also moving forward, with the chance that a permit system will begin to limit the emissions of greenhouse gases and start the lengthy shift of the U.S. economy to lower-emissions technologies.
Yet how this modest progress is being achieved is alarming. The Obama administration has not put forward one coherent plan as a detailed policy proposal. Every major piece of public policy has been turned over to the backrooms of Congress, emerging through the lobby-infested bargaining process among vested and regional interests. There was no overarching plan for the economic stimulus; no clear plan for health care reform; no defined strategy for climate change control; and so forth. ...
The complex, crucial issues we face require both expert inputs and public understanding. On each major issue of public policy, the administration should first put forward a white paper explaining why it is calling for a policy initiative, what it will cost, what benefits it will bring and how it will work. Legislative proposals should be shaped around these strategy documents. Independent expert groups should be invited to draft responses.
Most important, lobbying needs to be scorned rather than promoted. If given a chance, the public would back the Obama administration in facing down these narrow interests, the very interests that have contributed so much to our financial meltdowns, overpriced health care, clunker automobiles and energy insecurity. Scientists, engineers and public policy specialists can help craft real solutions, and an enlightened and trusted public would help put those solutions into place above the opposition of narrow interests. [full article]