THE PRIORITIES OF A BLUE DOG…. When it comes to the debate over tax policy, there are two key contingents: (1) President Obama and much of the American mainstream, supporting permanent lower rates for the middle class, while allowing top rates for the wealthy to expire on schedule and return to Clinton-era levels; and (2) congressional Republicans, who prefer a package stacked to favor millionaires and billionaires, at a cost of $4 trillion.

Blue Dog Democrats, claiming a mantle of fiscal responsibility, want to extend lower rates for the very wealthy, too. But unlike Republicans, Blue Dogs only want an extension of a year or two, and unlike Republicans, Blue Dogs don’t want the cost to be thrown onto the deficit.

So, are they to be applauded for pursuing a GOP policy in a less reckless way? Even by the soft bigotry of low expectations, it’s hard to give Blue Dogs credit on this — they want to pay for tax cuts for millionaires by cutting spending elsewhere.

“People are very imprecise with the way they are talking about it and reporting it,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md) said in an interview last week. “The Blue Dogs have not proposed a permanent tax increase for the wealthy, just a temporary plan… At the most what they have proposed is a one or two-year extension and most of them are in favor of a permanent extension for the middle class.”

“They are working to identify offsets in the event that they are doing a one- or two-year extension [for the wealthy], which is totally different from the Republican plan.”

In an interview with the Huffington Post on Thursday, Rep. James Cyburn (D-S.C) the House Majority Whip, confirmed that Blue Dogs are working on a plan to identify specific cuts in government spending as a means of paying for a temporary extension for tax cuts for the wealthy.

Look, I’m glad Blue Dogs don’t just want to cut taxes for the wealthy with more deficit financing, but their priorities don’t make any sense. They want to cut spending (which improves the economy) in order to pay for breaks for the wealth (which doesn’t improve the economy).

And not only does this fail as a policy matter, but Blue Dogs have managed to thread a political needle in a way that runs counter to public attitudes twice — they’re fighting for tax cuts for millionaires the public doesn’t support, and they’ll pay for it with cutting programs the public does support.

Kevin Drum asks, “Are the Blue Dogs congenital morons?”

I’ll assume that’s a rhetorical question.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.