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It’s time for the Blue Dog Democrats to follow their principles

In the 1994 off-year election, the House of Representatives flipped from Democrat to Republican. After 40 years in the minority, the GOP, led by Speaker Newt Gingrich, were ready to honor their Contract with America. But they would need the help of at least some Democrats.

Then-President Clinton changed his policies. The effort to pass a National Health Insurance bill, not only failed but was the primary reason the GOP won the House. Clinton and a group of Democrats known as Blue Dogs worked with the GOP

The result was that by 1996, the capital gains tax rate was cut and President Clinton said, “The era of big government is over.” From 1997 to 2001, the economy grew at a 4 ½% annual rate and the government’s budget had a surplus for those four years.

Who are the Blue Dog Democrats?

They were created in 1995 to “represent the commonsense, moderate voice of the Democratic Party, appealing to mainstream American values. The Blue Dogs are leaders in Congress who are committed to pursuing fiscally-responsible policies, ensuring a strong national defense, and transcending party lines to do what’s best for the American people.”

The group started with 23 members and reached a peak of 59 in 2008. But with the election of President Obama and the subsequent moving of the Democratic Party’s view far away from the Blue Dogs’ positions, their numbers dwindled. Today there are only 19.

Judging by the always nearly-unanimous votes of the Dems in the House, the Blue Dogs have been very silent and they are voting for legislation that is not consistent with their mission. Last March, just one voted against Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package.

That spending bill ballooned the deficit, added nothing to economic growth, and created so much excess demand that inflation soared to 7%. The 18 Blue Dogs who voted for that were certainly not “committed to  pursuing fiscally responsible policies.”

And how about the infrastructure bill? The massive $1.2 trillion package really spent about half on infrastructure and the other half on an assortment of social causes. Not one Blue Dog voted against that massive spending bill.

There are no Senators who are listed as Blue Dogs. Fortunately for those of us who understand that fiscal responsibility is important to the health and welfare of our country, there are two Senators who follow the same common sense as the Blue Dogs say they follow.  As they defy the will of the very fiscally irresponsible Democratic Party, those senators are paying a very high price.

Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have put the American citizen’s needs above the will of the Democratic Party. Since 2008, the Democrats have put curing real or perceived social injustices ahead of sensible economic policy. They have placed the problems of small percentages of households ahead of the best interests of the majority of Americans.

This has led to irresponsible levels of spending, higher taxes, and high growth in the sector of the population that depends on the government for subsistence. Continuation of these policies will lead to a stagnant economy, higher prices, and fewer employment opportunities.

It will also lead to unbearably high levels of public debt and eventually $1 trillion annual interest payment to pay for that debt.

It is painfully obvious that the country needs the Blue Dogs to speak up. If the 19 of them were brave enough to stand up for the principles to which they subscribe, the current and future economic hardship could be completely avoided.

The first step is to vote against any additional government spending. Regardless of what President Biden claims, it is difficult to believe that any Nobel Prize-winning economist would say that increasing government deficit spending will reduce inflation, especially when the annual deficit is already in the trillions.

Will the Blue Dog Democrats have the courage to follow their principles?  I certainly hope so.

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Michael Busler

Michael Busler, Ph.D. is a public policy analyst and a Professor of Finance at Stockton University where he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Finance and Economics. He has written Op-ed columns in major newspapers for more than 35 years.

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