Three Republicans and three Democrats search for budget compromise!
A bipartisan group, six senators have spent months pounding out a compromise they hope to persuade Congress to adopt, a plan that will reduce the deficit, create jobs and turn the U.S. economy around.
Democrats Mark Warner (VA), Dick Durbin (IL), Kent Conrad (ND) and Republicans Tom Coburn (OK), Saxby Chambliss (GA), and Michael D. Crapo (ID), after months of meeting behind closed doors, may not be able to complete a deal as budget talks begin in earnest now that Congress has returned from its two-week recess.
Since they've been meeting in almost complete secrecy, it's difficult to predict what their proposal will contain and difficult to know what they agree on and what they differ on.
Unlike the Ryan plan, which was passed by the House a few weeks ago, the bipartisan proposal is rumored to contain some revenue increases as well as spending cuts. It will, like the president's deficit commission, address the reality that serious deficit reduction requires growth in revenue, which does not sit well with Republicans.
Will the bipartisan plan get bipartisan support?
The mere thought of raising taxes raises Grover Norquist's blood pressure and has created a rift between he and Senator Coburn, who has publicly expressed the need to raise taxes to rein in the deficit.
Norquist is President of Americans for Tax Reform, an organization formed in 1985 at the request of President Ronald Reagan.
Norquist and his taxpayer pledge are, in part, responsible for the huge deficit and decline America has been facing for the past three decades. The Bush tax cuts have added nearly $2 trillion to the deficit.
As taxes remained low after the Bush tax cuts, spending increased dramatically, exacerbated by Republicans' inexcusable, un-financed wars, Medicare Part D and No Child Left Behind, causing the deficit to soar out of control.
Americans are paying the lowest tax rates in over 60 years. The wealthy, with increased loopholes and tax credits, are paying the lowest effective tax rate in nearly 80 years.
Many of the biggest U.S. corporations paid zero federal tax in 2007-2009, revenue that would have helped pay for improvements in infrastructure, extended unemployment and job training.
Republicans want, instead, to cut spending to lower the deficit, cutting programs that will slow the economy and do little to reduce the deficit.
Senators Chambliss and Crapo also signed the pledge, which leaves the compromise anticipated from the Gang of Six in jeopardy and possibly the reason the negotiations have stalled.
The three Republicans will have to break the intractable Norquist pledge in order to do what's right for America. Otherwise, their months of meetings were a tremendous waste of time and taxpayer money.
What is difficult to comprehend, given their voting history, is how this group can formulate a plan that will truly address the revenue and deficit problems head-on. This would require reversing many of the problems they, along with their colleagues, have caused.
Collectively, their votes have caused or are partially responsible for: fiscal damage of the war in Iraq, the housing crisis, the dot-com bubble, the banking crisis, the unemployment problem, the oil spill, the erosion of the middle-class, high gasoline prices and the militant political divide in this country.
Crapo, Conrad and Durbin all voted for Gramm/Leach/Bliley in 1999, the cause of the bank crisis. Senator Warner's father, then the senator from Virginia, also voted for it. Chambliss voted for it as a member of the House. Coburn was not a member of Congress but, given his voting record, would likely have voted for the crisis.
They all voted for TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program), except Senator Crapo, ignoring the opportunity to break up the big banks, for which they wax poetically now. They chose not to address the problems of housing, derivatives, bonuses and fees -- failing to impose definitive restrictions -- leaving us vulnerable to the same financial greed by the same rapacious characters.
In effect, the Gang of Six has a lot of damage to reverse and an obligation to 'the people' to repair the damage they have caused.
America needs an honest, even though it may be painful, assessment and solution to our suffocating problems. A healthy economic solution cannot be revenue neutral.
They must also take an honest look at the problems the erosion of the middle-class has caused and honestly address them.
Their attempt to address a deleterious deficit is commendable. Whether they'll be able to overcome their political differences remains to be seen.
Is this bipartisan Gang of Six up to the task?
Doubtful, but, we'll know in the next few weeks.