One way for the Blue Dog Democrats to avoid criticism from progressives is to stop humping the leg of insurance companies. Since that isn’t going to happen, they just try to make us shut up:

In a closed-door caucus meeting Wednesday morning, Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.) called for unity and asked for the public criticism to stop.

“She said we shouldn’t be questioning each other’s motives,” said one lawmaker.

Blue Dogs are particularly incensed by the remarks of Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), a liberal and senior Democrat on the powerful Ways and Means Committee. On an August conference call, Stark called Blue Dogs “brain-dead” and asserted,

“They’re just looking to raise money from insurance companies.”

But another critic, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), said she had no plans to mute her criticism.

“Hell, no,” Waters said. “Progressives have a voice in this caucus, and we’re not going to back down.”

I’m with Maxine, even if we are suffering from a general lack of civility these days. I cannot see any honest reason not to question the motives of the Blue Dogs. You see, it simply is not the case that the centrist position is to force every uninsured American citizen to become a customer of a for-profit health insurance company or face a stiff fine. When Blue Dogs cast shitty votes on women’s rights or gay rights, I understand that they mostly represent culturally conservative districts. I don’t like it, but I can agree that they’re voting defensively to reflect the values of the majority of their constituents. In some cases it isn’t even a majority, but a passionate enough minority to threaten their political careers. But when it comes to creating a public alternative to forking over money to rapacious health insurance companies, their districts are no different from the progressives’ districts. No one wants to be forced to pay out their hard-earned money to a bunch of greedy corporate assholes who are more interested in denying you the care you paid for than in honoring your contract.

This is basic. There is no argument that opposing a public option is a safe position for the Blue Dogs. That position is only understandable from a fundraising point of view. Progressives are not very generous in giving money to people who oppose women’s rights and gay rights and are more willing to spend money in Iraq and Afghanistan than in our inner cities. And the Blue Dogs represent a lot of poor, rural districts. They have to get their money from somewhere, and that’s why they keep humping the leg of insurance corporations.

Is it polite to point this out? No. But it isn’t polite to lie constantly about what will and won’t improve our budget deficit either. How many times do I have to listen to a Blue Dog repeat this lie?

McCain said Obama was right in saying that his proposals would not offer health coverage to people in this country illegally. But he criticized the White House, and Democrats in Congress, for what he said was a failure so far to include Republicans in the health-care negotiations meaningful ways. He also said the cost of reform remains a huge issue.

“The math doesn’t add up and the record doesn’t add up,” McCain said. “We can’t lay another trillion dollars of debt on the next generation. . . . It’s generational theft.”

It makes me want to ask: what part of Obama’s speech didn’t McCain understand?

Here’s what you need to know. First, I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits – either now or in the future. Period. And to prove that I’m serious, there will be a provision in this plan that requires us to come forward with more spending cuts if the savings we promised don’t materialize. Part of the reason I faced a trillion dollar deficit when I walked in the door of the White House is because too many initiatives over the last decade were not paid for – from the Iraq War to tax breaks for the wealthy. I will not make that same mistake with health care.

If it costs a trillion dollars over ten years, that doesn’t mean that it will add a trillion dollars to the budget deficit. Obama said it won’t add “one dime” to our deficit. Even if he is wrong, it’s clear that the bill is going to be paid for on paper. Unlike the invasion and occupation of Iraq and the huge Bush tax cuts for the have-mores, this plan isn’t funded by the Saudis and the Chinese.

So, the Blue Dogs need to give the whole “worried about the cost” thing a rest. Stop lying and doing the bidding of the insurance corporations, and we’ll stop calling you names.