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Transcript: Thom Hartmann: The Big Picture: Government by gangs doesn't work very well. 18 May '11
The Gang of 6 is no more. Yesterday - Senator Tom Coburn dropped out of the Gang - a group of 3 Republican and 3 Democratic Senators given the task of writing the 2012 Budget - and figuring out a way to raise the debt ceiling. Coburn said he’s out because he doesn't believe an agreement can be reached anymore.
So now it’s up to another gang - this one headed by Vice President Joe Biden - to come up with a budget…hopefully before we default on our debt and descend into economic chaos.
But with all these gangs around - it makes you wonder…whatever happened to the old-fashioned idea of open debate - on the floor of the House and Senate with all of our elected representatives taking part - to determine the best path for America?
Why are we instead relying on “gangs”? Since when did “gang rule” come to America?
China relied on Gang rule. Back in 1966 when Mao Zedong rose to power - he created a gang of 4 to basically run the entire country during the “Cultural Revolution”. That Gang rule lasted for 10 years - before the Cultural Revolution fell apart after Mao’s death - and the Gang of 4 was put on trial for crimes against the state and slapped with life-long prison sentences.
Turns out - government by gangs doesn’t work very well.
But here we are in America trying it, over and over again.
Our Constitution says our politicians should make decisions…and it doesn’t say anything about a gang of six guys sitting in a smoke-filled room with Martinis hammering out the best path for the other 300 million of us - or for the other 429 members of Congress. Yet that’s exactly what happens - over and over again - with disastrous results…especially for Progressives.
In 2009 - a Gang of 6 Senators on Max Baucus’s Finance Committee was given the power to write the healthcare reform law.
The problem is...when you take the debate out of Congress - and stick it in a room without cameras - then you take the American people out of the debate.
And in their absence - special interests worm their way in.
Max Baucus’s Gang of Six - took a combined $8 million in campaign contributions from the healthcare - the pharmaceutical - and the insurance industries.
It’s no wonder, then, that the final result of their negotiation was a bill that didn’t have a public option - and gave health insurance companies 50 million more new customers to screw over. For some reason - even though they had huge majorities in the House and Senate - Democrats outsourced writing a signature piece of legislation to 3 right-wingers and 3 so-called moderate Democrats - who promptly threw all the progressive ideas into the fire on the first day.
And in the end - the Gang of Six STILL couldn’t get any Republicans on board to support it
Then there was the gang of 14 back in 2005. This gang tried to figure out a way to break a Democratic filibuster of Bush’s ultra-hard-right-wing Supreme Court nominees.
In the end - Democrats in the Gang of 14 gave in - and allowed Samuel Alito to be confirmed to the Supreme Court - a decision that's led to disastrous consequences in the years since.
Then there was the Gang of 20 back in 2008 - when lawmakers were brought together to create a new energy plan in America - one that was supposed to limit off-shore drilling and end oil subsidies. Tell the 11 men who died on the Deepwater Horizon when it blew up, or the residents of the Gulf who are still dealing with all that oil and poison, how well that Gang worked out.
And in 2007 - there was the Gang of 12 - entrusted with creating a comprehensive immigration reform bill. That one worked out brilliantly, eh?
In just the last 5 years - we've seen very well just how bad "gang rule" in Congress is - and yet here we are - in the midst of economic turmoil - on the doorstep of default - and we are relying on another gang to lead us out of the wilderness. A gang I might add that's received over a million dollars from each of the major industries - Big oil - Wall Street - and big agribusiness.
So I'm not holding my breath expecting a cut in oil subsidies - or a cut in the number of billionaires and millionaires who pay a maximum 15% income tax because of the Bush capital gains tax giveaways - or a cut in farm subsidies to giant ag companies.
So I say it's a good thing that Tom Coburn dropped out - because - given the history of gang rule in Congress - the end result of the Gang of 6 was likely to be pretty damn worthless.
Let's go gang-busters and bring back open debate to the floors of Congress - where our Representatives know they're being held accountable for what they do because we can all see and hear it. Then maybe Democrats will start acting like Democrats.
And, more importantly - our government will start acting like our founding fathers imagined.
THAT would be a refreshing change!
That's The Big Picture.