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Hey Patrick Murphy: At some point, you have to pick sides. (And right now you are on the wrong one.)
I like Patrick Murphy, Philly and Bucks County's young Congressman. He seems fairly responsive and upfront, he has a good personal story, he is likable, and many people think at some point, he will run for higher office. But he should be careful, because if the Congressman is ever going to be able to re-engage progressives on a level that he achieved in his 2006 election win, the time is coming for him to pick sides.
What I am I talking about? His membership in the so-called Blue Dog caucus.
The Blue Dogs are, in theory, simply supposed to be fiscally conservative Democrats. There is nothing inherently wrong with that. But the reality is much, much different. What they really do is frequently kill or water down good actual progressive legislation, usually with the needs of big business in mind. So, despite the fact of of our impending global catastrophe, they made the climate change bill a weak, almost do-nothing, embarrassment. But they did it with a smile, and by calling themselves moderate.
And now, they have their hands around the neck of health care reform, and are squeezing as tight as they can to make good bills into bad ones.
As a first example, the House suggested that we pay for health care by taxing the wealthy. This would not only make the healthcare plan deficit neutral, it would make the plan actually produce a surplus. So, if you are primarily concerned about deficits, as the Blue Dogs supposedly are, you would like that, right?
But, what if you are really concerned with helping high income earners, or big business at the expense of others? Then no, you don't like that option. So instead, the Blue Dogs effectively proposed a middle class tax increase, and that the government should insure less lower income people. Again, effect on the deficit: the same. But to the Blue Dogs, helping less people, and taxing more from the middle class? A good day's work.
As a second example, the Blue Dogs have been trying to oppose a real public option for universal healthcare. As most people know, a real public option is crucially important to achieve real reform, and not to simply fatten the coffers of the insurance companies. It is also supported by a large majority of the country. But still, the Blue Dogs persist.
Oh, and on a completely unrelated note, there is this:
The Blue Dog's political action committee has collected $1.1 million in the first six months of the year -- more than any other political action committee, according to CQ. (Subscription required.) Nearly 54% came from the energy, financial services and health care industries, according to an analysis by the non-partisan Center for Public Integrity. That's up from 45% in 2004. The center's reporting appeared in Politico.
Right now, the biggest obstacle to universal healthcare for all Americans, paid for in a sane way, is not the GOP. It is the Blue Dogs. Which brings me back to Patrick Murphy...
Yes, on occasion, Rep. Murphy has said he disagrees with his own caucus, including on the public option. And he is doing some good stuff- like picking up the mantle on "Don't ask, don't tell." But at some point, the fact that he caucuses with- and therefore lends power to- a group that has stood against a real climate change bill, real mortgage reform, real financial oversight, and that is now slow walking health care to its doom, matters.
At some point, Patrick Murphy has to pick sides. He can have it both ways for only so long...