Has the Blue Dog Coalition given up on their version of fiscal responsibility? Jim Cooper (D-TN), leader of the Blue Dogs – the self-described fiscally-conservative group of congressional Democrats – was quoted in a Wall Street Journal op-ed announcing, “I’m not sure the old rules are relevant anymore… It would be unfair to the new President to put him in a budget straitjacket.” This effectively kills any plans for PAYGO budgeting in the 111th Congress. Apparently budgetary trade-offs no longer apply when liberals occupy the oval office.
Interestingly enough it was the President-elect himself who illustrated budget trade-offs best. During the second presidential debate, Senator Obama responded to a question regarding the candidate’s handling of taxpayer money saying:
Well, look, I understand your frustration and your cynicism, because while you’ve been carrying out your responsibilities — most of the people here, you’ve got a family budget. If less money is coming in, you end up making cuts. Maybe you don’t go out to dinner as much. Maybe you put off buying a new car. That’s not what happens in Washington. And you’re right. There is a lot of blame to go around.
PAYGO attempts to force Congress to make those tough budgeting decisions. Although PAYGO is not the most effective tool for reining in runaway spending and deficits, it is clear that some type of budget constraint is necessary.
When it was politically advantageous, the Blue Dogs were PAYGO’s principal supporter. Following the 2006 mid-term elections they issued a press release proudly declaring, “We heard the message the country sent to Congress in November and that’s why passing PAYGO budget rules to stop any new deficit spending is a first step to getting our country back on track fiscally.”
Unfortunately, when the hard decisions came the Blue Dogs surrendered, voting 12 times for a total of over $398 billion in new deficit spending. Now they plan to abandon it completely.
The WSJ op-ed describes the Blue Dogs decision to ditch PAYGO well:
PAYGO was always a big con designed not to reduce spending but to stop tax cuts. It was invented to stop the GOP Congress and then a Republican President, but it is inconvenient when Democrats run the show. With the recession available as an excuse for just about anything, get ready for the first $1 trillion federal budget deficit. And don’t expect any howling from the Blue Dogs.
The federal deficit for 2008 is $455 billion, rising from 1.2 percent of GDP in 2007 to 3.2 percent of GDP in 2008. After the elections the Blue Dogs should have an even louder voice. Why aren’t they preaching PAYGO now?