In Defense of the Blue Dogs
Liberal bloggers have taken to ganging up on the Blue Dogs—conservative Democrats who tend to go their own way on fiscal and foreign policy issues. Smelling victory in November, some on the left would like to find a way to take out these lawmakers, who mostly represent southern and midwestern swing districts.
The left’s biggest objection seems to be the Dogs’ support of both the Iraq War and the Bush Administration’s aggressive “war on terror,” including its curbs on domestic civil liberties. I’m not going there. After all, this is a tax blog. But when Ezra Klein charged in a post the other day that the Dogs were also pro- tax-cut sell-outs in thrall to business lobbyists, that was a bit too much.
I’ll take Ezra’s word for it that these pols take lobby money. They are, after all, congressmen. But they are hardly knee-jerk tax cutters.
In fact, conservatives regularly rage against the Dogs for opposing the Bush tax cuts. Last year, the National Taxpayers Union gave them a collective grade of D for their lack of featly to its agenda. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn) got an average NTU rating of 26 out of 100 over the past five sessions of Congress. Nick Lampson (D-Tex) averaged an 18, not much better than Barack Obama, who scored a9. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND), averages about a 20 from Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform.
These ratings can sometimes be silly, but the message is clear: In the eyes of the anti-tax crowd, the Dogs are far from reliable friends. Andthey have made some very tough votes along the way.
I wish they were tougher on spending. Not surprisingly, since many of the Dogs represent rural districts, they have not been keen to cut farm subsidies. And they have been disappointingly soft on other efforts to trim spending. Still, they are better than most.
Finally, there is the politics of all this. Despite the fervent wishes of the left, a 2009 spending spree, which would generate either more borrowing, higher taxes, or both, is neither good for Democrats nor the country. Having a few Blue Dogs around to provide cover for a bit of fiscal prudence may not be such a bad thing. Besides, why would any Democratic partisan want to replace a conservative Democrat with an even more conservative Republican, which would be the inevitable result of such a purge.
As any politician can tell you, kicking a Dog is never a good idea.