Is this what it's come to in the Congress? Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont) and his Republican counterpart, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) have promised their committee colleagues that their tax code suggestions will be kept under lock and key for the next fifty years, allowing them to offer policy without being under the watchful eyes of the voting public. They're hoping to get more input from the rest of the boys club if they promise to hide the identities of those making the policy suggestions.
When I first read this bit of news (thanks to The Political Carnival for the heads up) I was certain we had entered the realm of an old situation comedy from my childhood. Maxwell Smart and his boss would sometimes crouch under the infamous "Cone of Silence " on "Get Smart" in order to discuss spy operations in total privacy, usually with disastrous results. They'd end up screaming at one another to be heard, and the Plexiglass dome over their heads would often malfunction and drop down upon them...
Letting Senators hide their ideas from the prying eyes of the public sounds like a recipe for a lobbyist dream team. Put a few dollars in the right Senator's reelection coffers, send him a list of demands for the new tax code, and know in your heart of hearts that Senator's suggestions won't see the light of day until 2064? Game on!
But then I thought about it for a few minutes, and now I'm beginning to think this might be the only way we can get folks in Congress to do the country's work. Think about the current situation: no one on the right can make a moderate suggestion toward compromise with the Democratic Party without risking a Tea Party primary fight in their home district. Even when they KNOW the legislation before them would be good for the country, they often have to vote along strict party lines to keep the baying hounds of their base away from their asses.
And Democrats in Congress often look at progressive legislation with a dim view, but support the cause simply to keep the peace among liberals in their own base.
So nothing substantial gets done.
If Congressmen could go into a Cone of Silence for real negotiations on immigration reform, health care reform, tax code reform, and make suggestions toward compromise without the fear of being pilloried at home, perhaps this dysfunctional mess in Washington could actually begin to make progress.
Of course, if the Koch brothers thought they could get everything they've ever wanted out of Congress simply by dumping a few billion more into the process, who's to say they wouldn't wield even more power than they already do?
Maybe an anonymous Congress would do a better job?
One large caveat to that notion: the final votes on all of their wranglings would have to be VERY public.
We'd at least get to see who votes for the things they create in their secret lab...