On NPR stations this morning, the "Power Breakfast" segment from Capitol News Connection profiled Rep. Betsy Markey (D-CO), who is fighting hard to keep her seat this year. The reporter noted:
She’s a Blue Dog, one of those fiscally conservative Democrats who frequently complicate things for Party leaders by insisting on spending offsets and the like.
A claim slightly complicated by the reporter's earlier noting that Markey voted for the $787 billion stimulus bill, the health care overhaul, and cap-and-trade. How exactly does that make her a Blue Dog fiscal conservative? Oh, and in her first year she got a score of 19 percent on tax and spending issues from the National Taxpayers Union. The search for an actual Blue Dog goes on.
But I was really struck by this line about the massive stimulus bill:
MARKEY: [E]very economist from the far left to the far right was saying the government needs to step in because there was absolutely no private sector investment.
This is of course not true. Hundreds of economists went on record against the stimulus bill. The Cato Institute's full-page ad with their names appeared in all the nation's major newspapers. It is hard to imagine that Representative Markey missed it. If she wasn't much on reading newspaper ads, lots of economists wrote op-eds and blog posts opposing the stimulus. If she didn't read op-eds or blogs either, the ad and the economists were featured on dozens of television programs.
And so we come to the question in this post's headline: Could Rep. Betsy Markey really be so misinformed that she actually believed that "every economist" supported a massive increase in spending and debt on top of TARP and the other bailouts?
This morning, Politico's Arena asks:
"Election 09: What's the message?"
A note on NY 23, then to the larger message in yesterday's returns. Already this morning we're seeing an effort to spin the NY 23 outcome as a warning to Republicans and a hopeful sign for Democrats. Yet the striking thing about that outcome is how close a third-party candidate came in the face of opposition from the Republican establishment. And the ultimate outcome can doubtless be explained simply by absentee ballots, plus voters unaware of the last-minute developments in the race.
Thus, given those factors, the NY 23 outcome is perfectly consistent with returns in the rest of the country. (In fact, Conservative and Republican votes in that race total more than 50 percent.) And the message will not be lost on blue-dog Democrats. If the internal inconsistencies of ObamaCare did not trouble those Democrats before yesterday, they surely must now. The silence coming from the White House last night spoke volumes.
We've written more than once about the Democratic "Blue Dogs" and the lack of any actual evidence for their supposed fiscal conservatism.
Now Merrill Mathews in The Wall Street Journal tells the sad story of the Blue Dogs in the Obama era. They call in the journalists, and they moan and complain about their concerns over the deficit and rising federal spending. And when the rubber meets the road, what happens?
• The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). One of the first things the Democratic leadership wanted the newly inaugurated President Obama to sign was a huge expansion of SCHIP. Democrats have been trying to pass the expansion for over a year, with some bipartisan support. President George W. Bush vetoed the legislation twice, and Congress sustained his veto both times by a hair.
SCHIP was created for low-income uninsured children not eligible for Medicaid. Under the old bill, children whose family incomes were 200% of the federal poverty level were covered. With the new bill, Democrats increased funding to cover children whose family incomes are up to 300% of the federal poverty level—or $66,000 a year for a family of four. The Bush administration and most conservatives thought it should remain at 200%. Did the Blue Dogs agree? Only two voted against the expansion.
• The $787 billion stimulus. The next major spending package was Mr. Obama’s stimulus bill. Not one House Republican voted for the bill. The Blue Dogs? Only 10 of 52 voted against it.
• President Obama’s 2010 federal budget. In April, Congress took a vote on the president’s $3.5 trillion budget for 2010—by far the biggest spending package in history. Again, not one House Republican voted for the bill, but only 14 Blue Dogs joined them in opposition.
Matthews says the health care bill is the Blue Dogs' last chance to show that they actually do care whether the federal government spends us into bankruptcy.
According to Don Johnson of The Health Care Blog:
Speculators seem to be betting that a watered down health insurance reform bill won't hurt health insurers, hospitals, drug makers or medical device and supply manufacturers.
Stocks for almost all of these health sectors and for exchange trade funds that track health stock indexes turned higher last week.
In other words, those with real money at stake don't believe that health reform will hurt the firms that make a living off of America's highly inefficient health sector -- President Obama's assurances notwithstanding.
Johnson provides seven possible explanations for this development, including:
3. If the very liberal Coastal Democrats who lead Congress and most of the five committees drafting health insurance legislation want to get the support of Democrats from Western, Midwestern and Southern states, they'll have to up Medicare payments to providers in those states. This is bullish for hospital chains, which operate mostly in the fly-over states...
6. Proposals to tax millionaires to pay for covering the uninsured and increasing benefits for others are in trouble, if not dead on arrival. The economy's in no shape to be stalled by tax hikes, and there appear to be enough Democrats opposed to the tax to stop it.
7. While the so-called Blue Dog Democrats are stalling health insurance reform for economic and ideological reasons, the Congressional Black Caucus has made it clear that it won't support a bill that the Blue Dogs will support. Throw in the opposition by anti-abortionists who don't want the legislation to use taxpayers money to pay for abortions, and you have a pretty complex political problem for President Obama, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). While the Speaker claimed Sunday that she has the votes to pass health insurance reform, few believe her.