Blue Dogs Sell Out the Middle Class

The House Blue Dogs decide to protect corporate hospital chains and wealthy doctors, but sell out middle-class families.

Details are still sketchy, but it appears as if the compromise reached between Energy and Commerce Chair Henry Waxman and Blue Dog health task force leader Mike Ross is not bad. What is interesting is what the Blue Dogs wanted.

Recall that the supposed entire reason for being of this caucus is “fiscal conservatism.” So it might surprise you to learn that the Blue Dogs’ chief demand was increasing the public option reimbursement rates to health care providers, otherwise known as doctors and hospitals. Medicare rates, they claimed, were too low.

Increasing reimbursement rates? Doesn’t that mean, you know, spending more money? Well…er…yes. This once again demonstrates that the Blue Dog position is pretty incoherent.

But have no fear: the Blue Dogs had a solution to this undermining of the supposed central tenet of their philosophy: reduce the subsidies for families making between 300-400% of the official poverty line. For a family of four, the poverty line is about $22,000, so that means that the Blue Dogs went out of their way to reduce subsidies for families making between $66,000 and $88,000 a year. This change appears to have allowed the bill to “save money” even though it increases reimbursements.

In other words, in order to pay hospitals and doctors more, the Blue Dogs decided to take money away from middle-class families.

I suppose that’s what it means to be a conservative nowadays: protect corporate hospital chains and wealthy doctors (who average roughly $150,000 a year nationwide) and (assuming two wage-earners) screw nurses, teachers, secretaries, and construction workers. Edmund Burke and Michael Oakeshott, call your offices.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.