Thanks, but I'll pass

Every now and then, I poke around the left wing of the blogosphere just to keep a modicum of awareness of what’s going on over there. It’s occasionally educational and entertaining, but mostly a waste of time. Every now and then, though, I find something that really encapsulates precisely why I don’t hang my hat there on a regular basis.

One such blogger (whom I will not name) linked approvingly to a poll (behind members-only access, I’m afraid) that listed what people think would be on the agenda if the Democrats got control of Congress — and, largely, would go along with. The list of items, of which this blogger (who styles himself a champion of the Democratic party):

  1. Increasing the minimum wage
  2. Pass legislation to provide healthcare insurance to those who do not have it
  3. Allow Americans to buy prescription drugs imported from other countries
  4. Set a time-table for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq
  5. Conduct major investigations of the Bush administration

I actually think that’s a fair list of the Democrats’ top priorities. And they all seemed oriented towards being nice and helping people and making things right. So, why do I have a problem with every single one of them?

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1) Increasing the minimum wage.

Nice thought, but bad idea. What is so bad about the current minimum wage? Yes, I know, you can’t support a family on it and it’s barely subsistence wages, but that is all based on some rather awkward presumptions. First of all, how many people actually get just the minimum wage, and stay at that pay rate for an entire year? Second, how many of them are the sole support of their family? Third, where are these minimum wage jobs? Every time I see a “help wanted” sign up at Wal-Mart or McDonalds (the ones most cited for underpaying workers), they’re offering starting pay rates substantially above the minimum wage.

A while ago, for that stunt show “30 Days,” the stars landed jobs at minimum wage and tried to live a month on that. The behind-the-scenes stuff I heard said that they really had to work at it; one of them had to bargain DOWN their employer, who was offering them more money, and they also discounted any sort of public assistance.

The one explanation I’ve seen for raising the minimum wage that actually seems to make sense is that some unions have written into their contracts that their pay will be based on some multiple of the minimum wage. If that goes up, so does their pay.

2) Pass legislation to provide healthcare insurance to those who do not have it.

Again, nice thought, but utterly impractical.

I’m a single guy, with a mediocre job. My employer offers me health insurance, and I take it. I pay about 33 bucks a week for it. (Rounded down.) It’s not a great plan, but I have enough health issues that it’s indispensible.

But if the government is going to provide me with health insurance, why should I sign up for it through my employer? I could use that extra $1,700 a year.

Also, “insurance” is all about risk-sharing and cost-shifting and pooling. It’s about exchanging X dollars for Y services. If we’re going to reduce X, how can we reasonably demand that Y be maintained, or even increased? Are we going to enslave doctors and other medical professionals and dictate what they will be paid for their services and skills? And I don’t buy the nonsense that the savings will come out of the middlemen — the insurance companies and the like. As much as I resent them generally, and mine specifically, they provide essential services in coordinating and expediting care-giving. There is most likely a LOT of fat, waste, fraud, and outright theft in there, but I have very little faith that all the savings (or even a good portion of them) will come out of those abuses.

3) Allow Americans to buy prescription drugs imported from other countries.

This one is another feel-good idea that I have to oppose on purely ethical grounds. It’s dishonest.

A lot of drugs are cheaper in other countries, yes. And it would be nice if we could simply buy them there and not have to pay the prices that we have here.

But those prices are artificially low, set by the government. The governments of those countries (and let’s face it, we’re mainly talking about Canada here) tells the drug manufacturers just what they can charge for certain drugs, and enforces that by law. So the drug makers, in order to remain part of the overall Canadian market, sell those drugs at (or sometimes below) cost.

Here’s the catch, though. If pharmacies start selling those “loss leaders” wholesale in the United States, the cost of doing business in Canada will skyrocket for those drug companies. They’ll start cutting back on the supply of those drugs to cut their losses. And if that doesn’t work, or the government insist they meet the demand, they might just up and quit making the drug entirely — or even quit doing businss in Canada altogether.

But on a principled matter, buying drugs from Canada is dishonest. Many of the drugs are manufactured in the United States, then shipped to Canada. To bring them back is essentially, “drug-laundering” — it’s taking American medicine, “washing” it through the Canadian price-control system, then bringing them back into the United States in direct competition with those never sent north. It’s a perverse incentive — instead of being more expensive to route them through a foreign country (which usually involves hefty transportation charges, duties, taxes, and the like), it’s suddenly cheaper. Those added costs do NOT affect the bottom line.

I would have more respect for those who talk about “importing drugs” would simply be honest about it and propose setting price controls on drugs here, instead of laundering them through Canada’s system.

4) Set a time-table for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

I’ve said this far too many times before. One does not measure accomplishments by time, but by achievements. Setting arbitrary deadlines simply tells the other side that in order to win, they don’t need to beat us, but simply last until a certain date arrives. We saw just how badly that philosophy works in the educational system with “social promotions,” where students just had to show up occasionally to be moved up a grade just so they could stay with their peers.

5) Conduct major investigations of the Bush administration.

Interesting idea. I guess since Halloween is so close, it’s a good time to bring up witch hunts.

Oh, I’m sure there are some things in the Bush administration that could stand investigating. No administration — especially one heading into its sixth year — is free of scandals waiting to be exposed. But let’s take a look at just two cases where the Democrats were howling for resignations, indictments, special prosecutors, and frog-marches:

  • The Valerie Plame Affair. It seemed that nearly everyone on the Left was ready to rejoice at the inevitable fall of Karl Rove, the evil mastermind who ruthlessly outed a CIA agent just to politically punish her husband. But as more and more facts came out, the actual substance fizzled and faded away. The primary leaker was not Rove, but an Iraq war opponent, Richard Armitage. Plame was not, apparently, covered by the existing laws. And in the end, the only indictment was of “Scooter” Libby, for the remarkable offense of lying about telling the truth about a liar (Joe Wilson). Libby told two different versions of how he said something true, and got nailed for it.
  • The Mark Foley Affair. The guy was a serious scumbag, and we’re all better for his having been exposed and driven out of office. But it appears less and less likely that any actual crimes were committed. Nonetheless, we have calls for investigations into “who know what and when” and cries for mass resignations in disgrace.

THESE are the people who should be in charge of investigating the Bush administration? And not just investigations, but “major investigations?” I’d like to see just a little more evidence before doing something so major. The old saying says “where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” but so far all that smoke has been from their smoke and mirrors, and I’m getting tired of them blowing that smoke up my ass.

Michael Graham, a Boston talk show host (fired from his DC gig for irritating the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a serious boon on his resume for me), wrote a column yesterday for the Boston Herald that serves as an excellent companion piece to what I said above. He says that he “is ready to vote Democrat early and, in keeping with tradition, often.” All he asks is a good answer to one simple question.

And that question is NOT addressed in the points I kicked around above.

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