Blue Dogs: Let’s Reform Entitlements So That No One Can Campaign On Them

The shrunken Blue Dog Democratic caucus called a presser today to announce a vague-but-possibly-important new statement, asking the Super Committee to, in the parlance of our time, “go large.” The Super Committee is only tasked with finding $1.5 trillion of cuts over 10 years, and the Blue Dogs, like other Serious People, want it to find $4 trillion. Why not? The Gang of Six claimed to do so. Bowles and Simpson provided a framework for doing so.

“If the Blue Dogs were the 12 [members of the committee], we would have a solution,” said Rep. Heath Shuler. “The economy would be strong. The economy would be rebounding. The trillions of dollars that’s sitting in the business world today [because of] uncertainty would be back in the game.”

In the wake of NY-9, I was curious about what this meant for a Democratic wedge issue that had faded. Previously this year, Democrats battered Republican senseless over the Path to Prosperity. By voting for it, Republicans had voted to “end Medicare as we know it.” In New York, Bob Turner conspicuously declined to back the Path. His Democratic endorsers blocked the DCCC’s attacks and David Weprin’s attacks by saying, truthfully, that not even Democrats were promising to protect all entitlements. If they buckled on entitlements, wouldn’t Democrats be giving Republicans a pass on one of the last good wedge issues?

“I’m sure in the heat of next year’s election, there’s gonna be a lot of games to play on Social Security and Medicare,” said Rep. Mike Ross, who is retiring next year. “I’m going to be real clear: Democrats, Republicans, Blue Dogs… in my opinion, no one is talking about cutting benefits for seniors today, and those that are near retirement. We’re talking about reforming the program for our children and our grandchildren. I think it’s very important we make that point. I would call on the leaders of both parties to not make this an issue in the next election.”

So: Yes. On this issue, the Blue Dogs aren’t any further to the right than the president. He and they are reinforcing the concept that the crisis is a time for painful reform; the tradeoff of tax hikes and tax reform is not yet obvious.