Is the Gang of Six Dead?

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    Let’s hope so!

    Talks among a bipartisan group of senators working on a sweeping deficit-reduction deal are in serious jeopardy, according to a key member of the panel, threatening what many lawmakers had considered the best chance for a comprehensive long-term budget agreement this year.

    “I’m not sure we’re going to continue to talk,” said Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.), a conservative who helped give the group credibility on the right. “We can’t bridge the gap between what actually needs to happen and what people will allow to happen. I am discouraged,” Mr. Coburn said, following an hour-long meeting of the group Tuesday that he didn’t attend. Sen. Coburn has told other members of the group he is dropping out, according to a person familiar with the talks.

    Other senators were less pessimistic, though it’s difficult to see how the three Republicans and three Democrats, known as the Gang of Six, would retain their influence if they lost a key member.

    Again, the bottom line is simple. We had a budget surplus in the final Clinton years. To get back there, let’s reverse what Bush and the Republicans did in the early 2000s — huge tax cuts that were not paid for (cost: $4 trillion a decade), two wars that were not paid for (cost: trillions), deregulatory policies that contributed greatly to financial meltdown and the Great Recession (cost: trillions), etc. — and watch the budget deficit vanish. It’s really not that complicated, as much as the Gang of Six wants to pretend that it’s a combination of rocket science and brain surgery.