Washington leaders are running out of time to negotiate a deal and avoid a so-called "fiscal cliff" at the end of the year. Without action, everyone will pay higher taxes. Reduced federal spending will negatively impact everything from military contractors to wind energy companies to state budgets.
So what kind of progress are elected officials making?
"Right now I would say we're nowhere. Period. We're nowhere," said House Speaker John Boehner. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Republicans have to "come tell us what works for them."
They were among the many players making the rounds on Sunday talk shows. All the speculation, posturing and blame has the American public wondering if the White House and congressional Republicans are serious about the compromise the American people want and can come to any deal.
The most valuable and helpful idea from the weekend news show appearance came from Grover Norquist. On "Meet the Press," the controversial president of Americans for Tax Reform laid out exactly what needs to happen: Get the cameras on these guys.
Closed-door talks appear to be getting nowhere. The public is clueless about what is really happening. "Let's have it in front of C-SPAN cameras," Norquist said. Then we can see what President Barack Obama is doing and whether Republicans are being "reasonable."
Public officials paid with public money making decisions that directly affect the public actually doing their business in public? What a novel idea. ... But Washington officials are huddling in secret to make decisions that will affect the entire country.
Such secrecy not only leaves the public in the dark, it is an abdication of democratic principles. The legislative process should be open.
Cameras capturing the negotiations will give voters a first-hand view of how their elected officials really handle themselves. Do they call a fellow lawmaker "unreasonable" to his face or only later when they are holding a press conference? Are those who say they want smaller government finally providing details about what exactly should be chopped or eliminated?
Anyone advocating to extend the Bush-era tax cuts that have already been extended by two years can explain where needed revenue can be found. The public will learn more about major policy proposals (like increasing the eligibility age for Medicare) that are coming out of left field. We can see the details of the "serious offer" Boehner says has been put on the table.
Let Americans see how the sausage is being made - or why it is not being made. Openness will enlighten the public about the goings-on in Washington. Just as important, it may actually force politicians to stop posturing and actually get the work finished.