Monday, November 27, 2006

Blue Dogs

Tim Penny discussed the Blue Dog effect over the weekend:
Like Clinton in 1992, congressional Democrats today face a similar dilemma. In short, Democrats must feel like the dog that finally caught the tire. After sweeping to victory in nearly every closely fought congressional race, they now have a majority in both congressional chambers.

From the Iraq war to ethics, to deficits, the Democrats spent the election season criticizing Republican mismanagement of the people's business -- while seldom offering a coherent alternative of their own. Now they are in charge of Congress and must deliver. What will they do? What can Democrats agree upon? Thankfully, Democrats will be led by two experienced and respected Budget Committee chairmen, John Spratt (S.C.) in the House and Kent Conrad (N.D.) in the Senate, both of whom are serious about reducing deficits. Spratt has recently gone on record calling for a balanced budget within five years.
And that will be a challenge for sure!
To reach that goal, they might start by looking to the Blue Dog caucus -- comprised of 44 moderate and fiscally conservative members (nine of whom were newly elected this fall). Their prescription for fixing the budget morass created in recent years by Republicans is worth a serious look.

Among other budget disciplines, the Blue Dogs have proposed restoring "pay as you go" budget rules, tighter restrictions on emergency spending, and limitations on appropriation earmarks (commonly called pork-barrel spending).

From the Blue Dog list, Democratic Party leaders have so far only embraced the reenactment of "pay as you go" budget rules. That would make eminent sense given the success of these rules in the '90s when budget surpluses reappeared for the first time since 1969. "Pay go" policies serve to hold the line on new entitlement spending and new tax cuts (requiring that any such measures be honestly offset with other cuts or revenue increases so as to result in no net increase in the deficit). Regrettably, Republicans allowed these "pay go" rules to lapse in 2002 -- and large deficits have returned in the ensuing years. Restoration of "pay go" would hamper any proposed expansion of entitlement spending -- and would make extension of tax cuts beyond their expiration date in 2010 more difficult to achieve.
Penny may have reduced himself to an asterisk in Minnesota Politics, but he makes a lot of sense here. If you haven't read it yet, you should.


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