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Rep. Major R. Owens Headshot

Blue Dogs Are Now Silver Foxes

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We can do it! Change can happen if Congress does not ambush the movement. First, we must secure some strong leashes to hold back the Blue Dogs. They have just commandeered a five-year authorization for a $307 billion farm subsidy bill.

While the nation was appropriately preoccupied with the giant macro-concerns related to the nomination and election of a US president, this poisonous micro legislative maneuver authorized a cynical and costly looting of the treasury. At this moment the Blue Dog Coalition members have again demonstrated their mastery of the Washington maze that Barack Obama has pledged to change.

Beware! Change brigades are at risk. The massive veto override vote in support of this many-headed, power grabbing, tax-sucking monster Act exposes a deadly degree of malignant fuzzy mindedness among the majority Democrats. The title, conjured up from the best witch's brew of the advertising world: Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 was step one in what will probably be the greatest swindle perpetrated on this once promising 110th Congress. More than two thirds of the members yielded to this hypnotic call of the wild and followed the Blue Dogs into the forest of financial fantasies and voodoo economics. The money appropriated for food stamps could be administered better by the Department of Health and Human Services; the funds allocated for conservation could be more effectively utilized by the Department of the Interior; and of course, there would be more food for the hungry throughout the world if the State Department was allowed to oversee the purchase of local food nearer to the sites of suffering.

In the hallways outside the offices of many Blue Dog members there are cute posters highlighting the dangers of escalating spending and debts. From many naïve Capitol visitors they win civic praise. Often they even capture accolades from fuzzy-minded House members who once scored high marks on their math SAT exams. Obsessed with the speeches of Reverend Wright and Senator Clinton's messages to white men, most members failed to review the arithmetic of the Blue Dog's enduring pork barrel system.

Since politics is the art of compromise, and the Blue Dog Coalition has seduced the most members into making substantial compromises, the Blue Dogs must be crowned as the champions of the House legislative process. Perhaps a new attempt should be made to reestablish an effective Urban Caucus to advocate subsidies to lower food prices in the cities. Or the urban poor should be allowed to adjust their "personal responsibility" assistance formula, not in order to be eligible for a 600 thousand dollar subsidy (possible for a farm couple), but at least a bit above the current six thousand dollar a year welfare allocation for a family of four.

Or perhaps the Progressive Caucus members who voted for the 307 billion dollar farm bill should study the style of the Blue Dogs and seek their set of compromises with these champions of duplicity who are stalwart supporters for a wasteful defense budget while at the same time their hallway posters preach fiscal accountability and restraint. The Blue Dogs who obsessively demonize welfare families have never demanded an investigation of the Pentagon's unaudited trillion-dollar sinkhole.

The second most powerful caucus in the House, the CBC, should carefully study the techniques and modus operandi of the foxy Blue Dogs. Year after year the Blue Dogs shovel billions of dollars to their small constituency of rich farmers concentrated in only twenty-one of the 435 congressional districts. The big cities and the big states, where most of the Blacks and the poor reside, have representatives who have brought home very meager resources since the demise of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society programs. Obviously the power to gain a fair share of the federal budget does not reside in numbers but in creative planning, dedication, and a relentless determination to prevail on behalf of a chosen constituency.

To match the Blue Dog Coalition poster marketing, more objective members of Congress should place posters in their hallways, which advocate meaningful change as follows:

Audit the Pentagon and use the savings to build schools

Discontinue the weapon systems that have failed in Iraq and Afghanistan and use the savings for youth employment programs

Limit farm subsidies to families with less than 200 thousand dollars in annual income and use the savings to fund child health care.

Accelerate the collection of outstanding farm home loan debts and use the funds collected to support affordable public housing.

Yes, the knights of change riding into Washington can do it. But only if they are vigilant against the Blue Dogs who hunt in the jungles of the capitol.