Krugman vs the Blue Dogs

KRUGMAN VS THE BLUE DOGS…. Paul Krugman does a nice job today, summarizing some of the inherent flaws in the demands of conservative Blue Dog Democrats in the House. The caucus members “complain about the plan’s cost,” he notes, while “making demands that would greatly increase that cost.”

It’s an approach that leads the conservative Dems to want to limit subsidies to the uninsured, block a public option, and reject an employer mandate. The consequences of these positions are, Krugman explains, contradictory.

So, what’s driving them?

One interpretation, then, is that the Blue Dogs are basically following in [the footsteps of Louisiana’s Billy Tauzin, who became a Republican and eventually left Congress to the lavishly paid president of PhRMA, the pharmaceutical industry lobby]: if their position is incoherent, it’s because they’re nothing but corporate tools, defending special interests. And as the Center for Responsive Politics pointed out in a recent report, drug and insurance companies have lately been pouring money into Blue Dog coffers.

But I guess I’m not quite that cynical. After all, today’s Blue Dogs are politicians who didn’t go the Tauzin route — they didn’t switch parties even when the G.O.P. seemed to hold all the cards and pundits were declaring the Republican majority permanent. So these are Democrats who, despite their relative conservatism, have shown some commitment to their party and its values.

Now, however, they face their moment of truth. For they can’t extract major concessions on the shape of health care reform without dooming the whole project: knock away any of the four main pillars of reform, and the whole thing will collapse — and probably take the Obama presidency down with it.

I’ve largely given up trying to figure out what motivates the Blue Dogs. Maybe they’re bought and paid for. Perhaps they deliberately want to shrink the Democratic majority. Maybe they’re just really conservative on health care, and fundamentally reject the tenets of real reform.

Chait has a more charitable interpretation of recent events, and suggests today that they “don’t want to have to vote for a more liberal bill than what ultimately becomes law,” so the Blue Dogs are really just waiting for the Senate.

Whatever the case, Krugman is right about this being their “moment of truth.” About a week ago, Rep. Mike Ross’ (D-Ark.) , the chairman of the Blue Dog Health Care Task Force, told NPR, “There’s some folks from the right that have been calling my office very pleased that they perceive I’m trying to kill healthcare. At the end of the day, I suspect they’re going to be sorely disappointed, because none of us within the Blue Dog Coalition are trying to kill healthcare reform.”

It’s time to prove it. Ross and his Blue Dog colleagues have a chance to show their commitment to the issue, and demonstrate their steadfastness to their party and its principles. We’ll see what happens.