Is this democracy? How can we let this Gang of Styx -- six senators so unrepresentative of the American population -- decide who gets health care and who doesn't, in some cases who lives and who dies, who gets rich and who goes bankrupt?
They are known as the Senate Finance Committee's Gang of Six. I call them the Gang of Styx, in honor of the Styx River, the "river of hate" in Greek mythology that wound around Hades nine times and divided the world of the living from the world of the dead.
Under our current system, health insurance company clerks anonymously decide each day which of their captive customers will live and which ones will die by denying life-saving medical treatment. Health insurance executives make megamillions, while millions of people who made them rich go bankrupt.
Decisions still to be made by the Gang of Styx could ultimately decide who gets health care and who doesn't.
In the last two elections, America called for reform by overwhelmingly electing President Barack Obama and large Democratic majorities in the House and Senate. Where are they now?
Four other House and Senate committees have agreed on health care legislation largely in line with the president's prescription.
But Mad Max and the Gang of Styx insist on ignoring the elections and their own voters. Rather than represent voters, they'd rather dance with the corporate executives and health industry lobbyists who have given them millions of dollars in campaign funds.
Could any six senators be more unrepresentative of the nation than these six? Most Americans have never heard of them. They are Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Olympia Snowe of Maine, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, Charles Grassley of Iowa, and their fearless leader, Max Baucus (D-Blue Cross/Blue Shield) of Montana.
Added together, they collectively represent only 2.7 percent of the American population. Rural states deserve representation, but not to the exclusion of all other parts of the country. Among them only one state has what could be considered an urban center, Albuquerque, New Mexico, at 522,000 the 34th largest city in the country. Next is Des Moines at 197,000, the 112th ranked city. Billings, Montana and Fargo, North Dakota both top their states at about 100,000 each. The largest town in Maine is Portland at 63,000 and in Wyoming it's Cheyenne, 53,000.
This is comparable -- by proportional population -- to having international policy determined by Chad, Guatemala, Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. With the president of Sri Lanka serving as the chairman.
Between them, the Gang of Styx represent 8.4 million Americans but they have been given more dollars from the health care industry than they have constituents. Mad Max alone has received approximately $3 million since 2003, triple the 958,000 people he represents. Seems like a bargain for the industry that will rake in billions more dollars from Max's new bill.
Hmmm, makes me wonder -- if Baucus's constituents would pool their money and contribute $3 each to his campaign, could they buy one night in a cheap motel with their senator?
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