The Gang of Six and other patriotic skunk works

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Column by Jim Flynn

The term “skunk works” originated in the comic strip “Lil Abner.” It meant a job nobody wanted. The expression morphed into meaning high technology research and development projects done in secret by a small group of scientists or engineers looking for a radical solution to a problem.

A skunk-works group of bi-partisan U.S. Senators have worked diligently behind closed doors for months seeking a formula which might solve the national debt and deficit problem. They’re known as “The Gang of Six.”

At this writing (Saturday, July 23), while there is no agreed solution to the national debt and deficit crisis, we think the Gang of Six merit applause for their statesman-like efforts, despite the political maneuvering going on around them.

There have been other notable skunk works in our history. John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman risked their reputations, their possessions, and their lives as members of the Committee of Five which drafted the Declaration of Independence. King George III of England would have lopped off their heads had he known what they were up to.

Because the Senate considers itself a gentleman’s club and has no power to lop off heads, the most serious risks to the Gang of Six have been the displeasure of party leaders and possible anger of voters.

Democrats Mark Warner of Virginia, Dick Durbin of Illinois, and Kent Conrad of North Dakota have been willing to ignore their party’s obsession with deficit spending, borrowing, and more taxation.

Republicans Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Mike Crapo of Idaho, and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma have been rubbing their party’s fur the wrong way by considering proposals for tax reform revenue in addition to less spending.

Meanwhile, in between campaign trips President Obama called a succession of meetings with congressional leaders without ever offering up a plan of his own. The White House approach has been “If nothing works, it’s your fault!”

The President’s late and passive participation in the debt/deficit process has been an extension of his indifference to his own Fiscal Responsibility Commission in April. He didn’t even attend the meeting at which they presented their recommendations. Creating a debt and deficit Commission was just re-election campaign showmanship.

Like the Gang of Six, most of the members of the president’s Commission put their patriotic responsibility ahead of their political allegiances. They too deserve some applause for their statesmanship.

Too many Washington politicians equate compromise with cowardice. They are unwilling to risk their cherished “careers in public service” to practice statesmanship. They have forgotten, or never knew, that our Constitution was a compromise , without which there would have been no United States of America.