In a wildly under-reported story, last Monday the Des Moines Register uncovered a shocking factâ€”Leonard Boswell is a blue dog Democrat.
To anyone paying attention to politics, and familiar with Mr. Boswellâ€™s votes during his last term, this certainly comes as quite the revelation.Â The front page headline was written by Jennifer Jacobs and titled â€œOpinions vary on effectiveness of Blue Dog democrat Boswellâ€.
I am far less interested in the article itself than I am in the fact-like pronouncement that Leonard Boswell, especially recently, fits in the â€œblue dogâ€ pack.Â Though he is officially a member of a group of U.S House members called the â€œBlue Dog Coalitionâ€, his voting record puts him so clearly opposite of nearly every one of this coalitionâ€™s mission statements that itâ€™s truly laughable.
We will look at the record in a second, but let me first say that this is not the only time the Des Moines Register has been called out hereâ€”and technically it could happen almost daily.Â The reason this headline catches the eye is that with election season underway, characterizations and even subtle hints can go a long way in influence uninformed voters in November.Â Especially if advertising Boswell as someone who has been tight with the purse strings becomes a campaign strategy, which would be smart politics, this is a notion that has to be quickly and forcefully refuted.
The bottom line is that Leonard Boswell can call himself whatever he wants, and the Register can shrug off critical thinking and follow suitâ€” but that doesnâ€™t make it true.Â The fact is that if he is a blue dog, then Steve King is socially moderate and Kim Pearson and Tom Shaw â€œgo along to get alongâ€.Â Letâ€™s dig inâ€¦
For those unaware, a blue dog Democrat is a legislator in the House who is fiscally conservative and philosophically breaks with their party on the level of government spending and taxation that is appropriate, and by their own definition even moral.Â Though they recently are trying to branch out into other issues like energy and economic growth, by and large their purpose is to oppose overspending and battle fellow Democrats when need be.Â This being the case you would expect to see some sort of opposition from â€œblue dogâ€ Leonard Boswell to the direction the Country has swerved in following President Obamaâ€™s election.Â Instead, in the last three and a half years the national debt has increased $5 trillion dollarsâ€”and Mr. Boswell has cast â€œyeaâ€ votes all along the way.Â Here is the record.
The following are key votes the Congressman has taken on major tax and spend issues since 2009.
Voted in favor:
â€¢Â Economic Stimulus Billâ€”over $800 billion added to the national debt, more than a trillion dollars with interest included (passed the House 246-183 on Feb. 13, 2009).
â€¢Â Obamacareâ€”price tag of $900 billion over 10 years at passage, most recent CBO scoring nearly doubled this amount to $1.76 trillion (passed the House 219-212 on March 21, 2010).
â€¢Â Cash For Clunkers â€“cost of nearly $3 billion (passed the House 316-109 on July 31, 2009).
â€¢Â Extending Unemployment Benefitsâ€”April 15, 2010 (passed 289-112), May 28, 2010 (passed 215-204), and July 22, 2010 (passed 272-152).
â€¢Â Raising the debt ceilingâ€”passed the House 218-214 on December 16, 2009.
â€¢Â Cap and Tradeâ€”according to the Obama administration itself, would have cost Americans up to $200 billion a year (passed the House 219-212 on June 26, 2009).
â€¢Â Cut, Cap, and Balanceâ€”passed the House 234-190 on July 19th, 2011
â€¢Â Debt ceiling bill â€“ This is the John Boehner version that would have raised the debt ceiling in exchange for limits on discretionary spending (passed the House 218-210 on July 29, 2011).
â€¢Â Reducing spending to F.Y 2008 levelsâ€”passed the House 256-165 on July 25, 2011.
One can make many claims about Boswellâ€™s last term in Congress, but given this record it is hard to imagine how any fair-minded person could call him fiscally conservative.Â Besides the unbelievable amount of money he voted to add to our national debt, the other thing to note is how close many of these votes were.Â In particular, the Obamacare and Cap and Trade votes authorized borrowing hundreds of billions of dollars per yearâ€”and passed by a combined 14 votes. If there ever was a time a blue dog would stand up for their principles of responsible spending it would have been then.
Why It Matters
To bolster the claim that he is a centrist, the Register story uses a National Journal analysis of his votes in 2011 (right before an election year) which places him more liberal than 61.8% and more conservative than 38.2% of his fellow House members.Â While this point is highly arguable, any description of him as concerned with deficits and high taxes cannot be made with a straight face.Â In our current political climate of outrage over debt, the failure of the Stimulus Bill, and the GSO and Solyndra scandals, any distancing of himself from these issues would be a huge re-election assetâ€”and one he clearly has not earned.
What is really ironic here is the fact that this story follows a weekend in which the Des Moines Register published a piece telling their readers that they would soon be charging for online access to much of their content.Â This transition has many affiliated with the paper very nervous, as there is a high probability of it being a disaster.Â As long as they continue doing things like allowing Democratic politicians to self-identify themselves without publicly asking questions like â€œis Leonard Boswell truly a blue dog?â€â€”not only will their bottom line struggleâ€¦they will struggle to remain in operation.
In a lot of ways you wouldnâ€™t need much of a crystal ball to see this coming: A Country over 13 trillion dollars in debt with a government either completely ineffectual or damaging in nearly all spheres except military, enacting massive expenditures passed against the majority opinion of its citizens, which gives rise to a movement that wants to stop spending money it doesnâ€™t have and return their government to its Constitutionally relegated space.Â These people have been branded with a name: the Tea Party, which is weird because I have never been to a party where everyone is this mad.
Much has been said about this newly minted surge and much is known.Â Though you may not have needed it to see it coming, that crystal ball sure could come in handy when trying to envision how the Tea Party will attempt to pivot from being a movement to achieving movement.Â Being that mine seems to be broken about half the time Iâ€™ll just tell you that if I could write the script it would look something like this.
Never minding how sad it is a movement is needed for this, the beauty of this uprising is the underlying confidence that is implied by the movement.Â The confidence of the people in saying we can take care of ourselves.Â We, as Americans, can make decisions on a personal level to better ourselves and our Country while weathering the results.Â Let us keep the vast majority of our own money and we will be the stewards of our own future.
The next step is to have the fortitude to extend this confidence into the political proposals that will be forthcoming after the mid-term elections, when at a minimum Republicans will control the House, if not the Senate as well.Â Here is what I mean by thisâ€“ the process for passing legislation in Washington is to argue for it by making grand proclamations for how some billâ€™s passage will control costs, provide this or that, or stop this or that.Â Once passed the game turns into one of managing expectations.Â When a bill is written never is there included benchmarks that need to be met for it to be continued, no rip-cord provisions stating that if certain measurable effects that have been promised do not materialize in a certain amount of time the bill is nullified or re-opened for debate.Â The reasons for this are obvious.Â First, when you pass bills upwards of 1,500 pages for a country of over 350 million people nobody knows what will really happen.Â Second, it flies in the face of political self-preservation by opening the door to, god forbid, being proven wrong.
A perfect example of this is the Obama administrations hollow promise that the Stimulus Bill would keep unemployment below 8%.Â One that while politically damaging does nothing to stop the economic consequences that its failure has brought.Â The point here being that if you are confident in your claim-put it in the bill.Â Include language that if the unemployment rate goes above 8% the spending is stopped outright or a vote on its continuance is triggered in the legislature.Â Since no sane person from either party would, in hind-sight, trade spending a trillion dollars for 9.7% unemployment we could have had the bill discontinued at a cost of $200-$300 billion, instead of spending it all and having the president simply change his argument to â€œwell unemployment could be at 16%.â€
This is where the Tea Party movement and the candidates that it produces have a real chance to differentiate themselves from the weak- kneed slop that has been served up in recent memory by both parties in the economic realm.Â If the ideas are right and the desired results are indeed forthcoming, have the confidence to put it in writing.Â If the policies deliver you go from a small movement that champions a huge shift in the direction of the Country to a proven entity with the ability to actually get it done.Â In other words; Step up, Throw down, Win big, or Flame out.Â If you donâ€™t think that this is a strategy that the American electorate would fully embrace, you havenâ€™t looked around much lately.
We as Americans are ingrained, if not obsessed, with competition resulting in either winning or losing.Â We donâ€™t watch American Idol and Survivor in embarrassingly large numbers for 12 weeks to be told all the singers are equally as good and that everyone gets to stay on the island and split the money.Â Americans are not rabid about sports so we can watch our teams play and discuss amongst ourselves who we thought was the better team that day.Â We donâ€™t watch soccer, not just because wellâ€¦its soccer, but because we canâ€™t accept the concept of a tie, nor should we.Â There is not a doubt in my mind that Americans, especially the massive number of politically apathetic ones, would be interested and invigorated by a movement that had the courage to offer an agenda that says not only will we do x, y, and z (akin to the Contract With America), but that this agenda will then deliver x, y and z, and if it doesnâ€™t we were wrong and will go away.
The perfect place to start would be in the areas of taxes and health care as these both can be impacted in the short term and have solid, near real-time measurables.Â The proposal for health care would look like this: offer tax breaks to the lower and middle classes while opening up the health insurance industry to nation-wide Capitalistic competition.Â If after a period of somewhere between 1 to 3 years prices on average have not gone down a certain percentage the bill is ended and the debate is re-opened.
In terms of taxes- the party would settle on a tax strategy, be it a flat tax, a consumption tax or just lowering the current progressive rate.Â ThenÂ a proposal would be offeredÂ that states- we will lower/reconfigure the way you pay taxes and at the end of a set period of time it will result in some combination(to be specified in the billâ€™s language)ofÂ higher GDP, a lower National debt, and more employment.Â If it does not then we return to prior policy and the debate is restarted.
Not only would this approach let potentially ineffective legislation be discontinued and give the American people a chance to clearly judge the success of our ideology, the real benefit is what could be achieved afterward.Â If these bills delivered on their promises the trust needed to tackle larger and longer-term problems would begin to be established.Â This bold approach could create the political capital and trust that is required to move forward with things like removing Federal money from education and privatizing or vastly reducing Social Security.
Near is the time that these Tea Party candidates will be running in and winning a sizeable number of general elections.Â With this will come the reality of actual bills that contain actual legislative language.Â This phase in which the Tea Party goes from the philosophical to the literal is the critical moment that will determine its ability to deliver.Â Though most involved wonâ€™t want to hear it, this is the point where the Tea Party inevitably, at least to a degree, will lose its â€œleaderlessâ€ statusÂ as legislative proposals have to be authored, co-authored, and submitted by actual Congressmen and Congresswomen.Â This is not necessarily something to be feared if the right people take up the task.Â The preceding thoughts are in a way a plea to these legislators to be bold and embrace the spirit of confidence inherent in the movement that will have placed them there.Â Conservatives have long been fond of saying that we win in the arena of ideas â€“ soon will come both the time and opportunity to prove it.
Though this level of political risk is highly unorthodox it is most certainly American in spirit.Â From our founding, quite fittingly, to the very nature of Capitalism that we have thrived on for centuries we have craved competition, embraced the possible glory of winning, and never feared the possibility of losing.Â When the time comes, and it is coming soon, for the men and women we elect to put the pen to paper and attempt to realize the potential of this political movement I only hope that that this is the spirit that guides them.Â To them I say simply â€“ Step up, Throw down, Win big, or Flame out.