Monday, July 27, 2009

Blue Dog Democrats


Paul Krugman, like many others, has noticed the essential incoherence in the Blue Dog stance on health care reform, and takes up the matter in his Times opinion column today.

The Blue Dogs are (suddenly and at last) concerned with how much health care reform is going to cost, keeping watch for the next CBO report whose scoring does not land close to the deficit-neutral target. And yet, the alternatives they propose for health care reform would all -- up costs! So, what's the deal? Are these people basically just morons? Krugman hazards some tentative guesswork:

Maybe they're just being complete hypocrites. It's worth remembering the history of one of the Blue Dog Coalition's founders: former Representative Billy Tauzin of Louisiana. Mr. Tauzin switched to the Republicans soon after the group's creation; eight years later he pushed through the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act, a deeply irresponsible bill that included huge giveaways to drug and insurance companies. And then he left Congress to become, yes, the lavishly paid president of PhRMA, the pharmaceutical industry lobby.

One interpretation, then, is that the Blue Dogs are basically following in Mr. Tauzin's footsteps: 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.

By contrast, I am precisely that cynical! As the Washington Post recently reported:

The nation's largest insurers, hospitals and medical groups have hired more than 350 former government staff members and retired members of Congress in hopes of influencing their old bosses and colleagues, according to an analysis of lobbying disclosures and other records.


The hirings are part of a record-breaking influence campaign by the health-care industry, which is spending more than $1.4 million a day on lobbying in the current fight, according to disclosure records. And even in a city where lobbying is a part of life, the scale of the effort has drawn attention. For example, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) doubled its spending to nearly $7 million in the first quarter of 2009, followed by Pfizer, with more than $6 million.

Anyway, it seems to me quite simple. On the one hand, the average Blue Dog can take the chance that the public option may not be as popular in his or her district as it is with the rest of the country. On the other hand, HERE'S A PILE OF MONEY.