"Pale" Blue Dog Democrats

Today, I was listening to C-Span radio on Sirius (also available on XM) when I happened to catch a press conference being held by the Blue Dog Democrats.

For anyone unfamiliar with the "Blue Dogs", let me explain my understanding of them. They are a group of Democrats in the House of Representatives who have joined together in an attempt to influence legislation, as a group, in ways more powerful then they could do as individuals. They increased their numbers in the last election cycle and they now number 44. A significant number of the new Democrats elected that have given the Democrats a majority are now members of the Blue Dog Coalition. Since this coalition of 44 is way more then enough to turn the tide against the more liberal members of the Democrat caucus in the House if they desire, and since these members are those who have less to fear from those who voted for them by voting with the Republicans on occasion, these guys (and gals) exercise power beyond their numbers.

A strong binding element of what makes up a Blue Dog is fiscal responsibility. They do not want to watch America expire in a flood of federal red ink. Most Blue Dogs probably could be described as moderate. Some are left of center and some are right of center (and some even test these descriptions) but as I said, the glue is fiscal responsibility.

In the opening measures of our new Congress was the adoption of "PayGo" (pay as you go)rules by our House of Representatives. This is actually the re adoption of a policy that was practiced by the House and which was successful during the Clinton administration. PayGo helped restrict mushrooming federal deficit spending.

First, before I launch into "constructive" criticism of the Blue Dogs, let me offer them some congratulations. The Blue Dogs were successful in getting PayGo included in Nancy Pelosi's "First 100 Hours" full court press and it sends a powerful signal to all members of Congress, helps set the tone for how legislation should be enacted and provides feedback to your constituents that they might have accomplished something by voting for you. Each and every member of the Blue Dogs deserve to be commended for this achievement, even those newly elected members of the coalition. Every American citizen who cast a ballot in favor of a Blue Dog also deserves commendation. With each ballot cast that put a Blue Dog in power, every citizen that thus voted may have helped our federal government embark on a path that could help us save our nation. Please do not think I am trying to engage in hyperbole, fiscal responsibility is that damn important. I feel the very existence of our great nation, as we know it, is threatened by deficit spending.

Now here comes the criticism. I can do as good a job at dressing down as I do at dressing up.

I suggest that "Blue Dogs" start describing themselves as "Pale Blue Dogs". They are in favor of fiscal responsibility all right, just as long as it is not too hard. During their press conference, I listened as the most vocally adept tried to do cartwheels around the issues. In response to the harder questions asked by the press I heard answers that left me extremely troubled.

I am going to discuss two very important areas in this piece that trouble me. Number one: the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). Number two: funding our War in Iraq.

I am going to take on the easiest of the two points first. The AMT. I heard one leader of the Blue Dogs try and sidestep whether something needs to be done about the AMT. Heck, I guess the AMT does not impact his electorate so nothing needs to be done. Let me explain the AMT. The AMT was enacted to catch wealthy bastards who did not pay their fair share of taxes. However, due to inflation, the AMT's net is broadening and every year is increasing so as to catch more and more members of the middle class. Which members? Most often members who live in areas with high costs of living and high state taxes. However, the only reason the AMT does not start biting into the real meat of the middle class is due to temporary relief measures that have been enacted. A permanent solution to the AMT problem needs to be adopted. Rich bastards who can afford to hire a bench full of tax experts to avoid taxes should still have to pay taxes. However, when the net gets so broad that includes reaching into the level of middle class taxpayers that have no idea how to avoid taxes, it has gone too far. Something needs to be done about the AMT. Those members of the Blue Dogs who's electorate are not affected by the AMT need to go back to those who elected them and explain that "fair is fair". You can also explain to the middle class members of their electorate that, one day, they too will be caught up in the net.

Should solving the problem with the AMT be "revenue neutral"? Yes, I guess it too should be. Perhaps taxes would have to be raised elsewhere to make up for the lost revenue, however "fair is fair" and if the revenue is still needed, the tax bite should be spread evenly amongst the members of our society. (No I am not saying I am in favor of a "flat tax". Raise the taxes in a progressive manner.)

Now let me tackle funding the War in Iraq. I listened as one of the Blue Dogs described his actions as he symbolically took out a scissors and cut up a charge card. The symbolic message? Borrow and spend days are over for the federal government. However when asked the hard questions, like about funding the War in Iraq, I could have sworn this "Blue Dog" Democrat was starting to turn a shade of polka dot. He started sounding like all the other politicians we have to deal with. You know the ones who I am talking about, the ones who state "I'll promise anything, tell you I will do everything, but in the end I will not do a damn thing." He stated something like our troops will be funded no matter how much it costs.

Look, in March our Congress is going to be asked by our President to approve a special appropriation to fund the continuing War in Iraq. From what I have heard, the request is going to approach 100 billion dollars (to be exact 97.4 billion). Last time around it was only eighty something billion. While attempts have been made to cut the costs, such as cutting funding to rebuild Iraq, the costs have continued to increase without maintaining the war fighting capability of our military. We continue to deplete the resources of our military as we approve extravagant sums to fund the war. Once again, Congress is going to be asked to take out the charge card to fund the War in Iraq.

Why didn't that member of the Blue Dogs just cut off a corner of the charge card instead of cutting the whole thing in half? Perhaps if that member of the Blue Dogs has some sacred cow he is unwilling to sacrifice?

What would I suggest? OK, we start with rolling back the Dubyah tax cuts to fund the War in Iraq. Personally, I liked some aspects of these tax cuts, however there can be no sacred cows. If Republicans find it unacceptable to roll back to "Bill Clinton" tax rates, then I suggest offering them a compromise. If they do not like tax rates labeled "Bill Clinton" we can start talking about "Ronald Reagan" tax levels and work from there.

I have heard Blue Dogs describe newly elected members of their coalition as "Blue Pups". I would encourage newly elected "pups" to not follow the leadership of the group so strongly that the entire group starts being described as "light blue" and eventually ends up breaking apart. You are trying to lead a national movement. It would indeed be a shame if this movement broke up on the rocks as it started to set sail.

Long live the Blue Dogs. But remember, when the old dog gets too sick, we put a gun to its head to put it out of its misery. Such is American politics. The American People are watching.


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