06/07/2010 11:24 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Back to the Blue Dog Basics

In my last few blog posts, I have defended the Blue Dogs and have been taken to task by readers who think that there is no room for centrists in the Democratic Party. I am not bothered by folks speaking their minds, but I will never apologize for standing up for moderates. As a change of pace, in this blog post, I am going to discuss the founding principle of the Blue Dogs: ensuring our government doesn't spend more money than it has.

Today, our country is facing a budget deficit that threatens our ability to operate as a functioning democracy. This is serious stuff. And whether or not you agree with the Blue Dogs, you have to agree that we need to get the budget deficit under control. The policies of President Bush may have created these deficits, but it is the responsibility of President Obama and Democrats in Congress to resolve them.

Eliminating our budget deficit isn't going to be easy. In fact, it is going to require very hard choices for the Congress and the President. Even though it is the right thing to do, people in power will pay political consequences for cutting government spending.

One issue that Congress is looking at over the next few weeks is whether or not to fund a second jet engine for the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). The JSF is a next-generation military plane, and it is costing the taxpayer a heck of a lot more than originally promised by defense contractors and the Pentagon (isn't that always the case).

President Obama has stated that he will veto the defense bill if this second jet engine is included. After all, the President wants to reduce the deficit quickly. This is a valid concern, but there is more to it, because competition between these two engines breeds cost savings over the long term. In the short term, President Obama is correct. Funding both of these engines will be a financial burden. But if we are serious about getting the budget deficit under control, shouldn't we do what saves money in the long term?

You don't have to take my word that competition brings down costs. The Government Accountability Office (GAO), the independent non-partisan accounting branch of Congress, recently testified on the Hill that "we remain confident that competitive pressures could yield enough savings to offset the costs of competition over the JSF program's life." In other words, the costs for building the second engine will be made up in savings from increased competition.

No one can deny that one reason members of Congress either support or don't support the alternative engine is because of the jobs it will create for the voters back home. And to be honest, the alternative engine means jobs back in my home state of Mississippi, which is especially important during an economic downturn with the threat of the catastrophic oil spill on our shores. But because so much money is involved on both sides of this issue, shouldn't we trust the GAO now more than ever? They are a neutral body only interested in ensuring that the American people aren't ripped off.

In 2006 and 2008, many Blue Dogs were elected to Congress because voters wanted government to spend taxpayer dollars wisely. Blue Dogs were sent to Congress as a rebuke to the Bush administration's short-term thinking for political gain that created our massive budget deficit. For Congress and the President today, the alternative engine is a tough call. Oppose it, and save money now. Support it, and save money for decades to come. I think we all know the right answer if we are ever going to make a serious impact on cutting or even eliminating our budget deficit.