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Fred Hiatt: Hilariously Wrong, Again

Blue Dog
Blue Dogs: More likely to hike a leg than hike a tax.
Photo courtesy Creative Commons license from Gerbil.

Today, Fred Hiatt called on Blue Dog Democrats to raise taxes. Really. I’m not kidding.

In writing about health care reform ideas, here is what the unsigned Washington Post editorial had to say:

Our advice: Don’t just agonize, do something. If the Blue Dogs stuck together, they could insist that health-care reform be made more responsible than the version recently endorsed by President Obama. In particular, the tax on expensive employer-provided health-care plans, which senators weakened from its initial form and whose effective date Mr. Obama then chose to postpone, could be strengthened and made to bite as soon as the spending begins. This tax has twin virtues. It raises money and it "bends the curve" on costs — more than any other single provision. In other words, it would begin to affect the growth in health-care costs for everyone.

Thanks for the laugh, Fred, but seriously, do you have any idea what the Blue Dogs really stand for? Here are some tidbits from the Blue Dogs’ own website describing their 15 Years of Leadership:

The Coalition was formed in the 104th Congress as a policy-oriented group to give moderate and conservative Democrats in the House of Representatives a common sense, bridge-building voice within the institution.

/snip/

The Coalition has been particularly active on fiscal issues, relentlessly pursuing a balanced budget and then protecting that achievement from politically popular "raids" on the budget. Past Coalition budgets have won the endorsement of the nonpartisan Concord Coalition and multiple newspaper and magazine editorials. As one column pointed out, the Blue Dogs have proven that "common sense, conservative economics and compassion aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive."

Blue Dog Coalition proposals have served as middle-ground markers which laid the foundation for the bipartisanship necessary to bring about fundamental reforms, and helped set into law policies reflecting the "common sense, conservative compassion" so often attached to the group’s efforts.

In the end, the Blue Dogs belong to their corporate masters, who fund them:

The final House bill, which Pelosi unveiled on October 29, also reflected the leadership’s fear of a Blue Dog revolt. It contained a public option, but a weak one, tied not to Medicare reimbursement rates as liberals had hoped but based on negotiated reimbursements. The Blue Dogs preferred this—as the insurance industry surely does—and moderate Democrats stood firm against a "robust" public option as the leadership made its final "whip counts" in advance of releasing a bill. One study that came out over the summer found that the coalition’s political action committee had raised more money in the first six months of 2009 than in the entire two-year 2003–2004 period—$1.1 million, with nearly $300,000 of that coming from the health care industry.

So the Blue Dogs have evidently triumphed on the question of the public option. Their resistance to it always had at its core a contradiction. Their great concern is cost containment, and no more effective cost-container has been proposed than the robust public option; yet many were against it. There is also the fact that as a group, the Blue Dogs tend to represent districts that are poorer—districts where more people could really benefit from a public option. And this is where their concerns have frankly quite often come across as less substantive than political or electoral.

In recruiting the Blue Dog candidates, Rahm Emanuel made sure that he was getting corporate tools who are Republicans willing to call themselves Democrats. All of the "fiscally conservative" claims that they make are code for their home red districts to tell their voters that although they talk mainly about containing costs (and watch the Blue Dogs take the lead in the upcoming commission that will gut Social Security and Medicare), they are more likely to hike a leg than to hike a tax.

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Jim White

Jim White

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