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Should there be a Political Campaign Honesty Act?

April 4, 2014

Whatever you think of President Obama, you have to admit he has put money where his mouth is, even if it’s your money. While campaigning, he said he believed in universal health care availability, and we have the Affordable Care Act (ACA). He said he believed in green energy, and the government has been throwing money at every green initiative that pops up, while attacking anything fossil fuel-related with vigor. He said he wanted to raise the minimum wage, and he did so, at least for government contracts. He said he wanted to change America, and he is sure doing that. The thing is, he sort of left out the unintended or at least unspoken consequences.

All presidents do this. The push to make all Americans homeowners, whether they could afford it or not, led to our most recent economic crash. Every candidate at every level dangles some pie-in-the-sky benefit in front of the voters to get elected.

If you are totally cynical, you might argue that no candidate  really believes all the campaign rhetoric that gets them elected. They court well-heeled donors with specific political views, adapt to what’s needed to turn on the money tap, and then they are more or less obligated to stay on that path.

All these political strategies sound good at the time, and the voting public seems to be willing to accept benevolent autocracy if it seems to be providing them with a cure for something they see as being wrong in their personal lives.

The problem is, no candidate is required by law  to present the cons as well as the pros of their social agendas. Maybe they don’t even believe there are any cons. And that usually results in campaigns becoming one big con.

Take the green movement. At first glance, the idea of developing cleaner fuels and reducing the human impact on the environment sounds like something no reasonable person could possibly oppose.

The real world consequences of that agenda are more troubling. Recently the government proposed raising the Federal gas tax, citing the fact that it hadn’t been increased in twenty years, and revenues have decreased to the point that the Federal highway system is in dire need of maintenance.

While many factors are in play when it comes to the condition of our federally-controlled roadways, two things seem to be influencing the decline in funding for road and bridge maintenance .

 One is inflation. The dollar amounts collected simply don’t go as far as they used to, due to the increase in the cost of labor and materials, as mentioned is a report by The National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission[1] (a now defunct commission that operated under congressional authorization from 2005 to 2007). Another modifying event is that people are simply not buying as much fuel as they used to when fuel was cheaper.

As government mandates ever- increasing MPG efficiency, cars simply don’t need as much fuel. The average mid-sized car in the 1960’s got from 12 to 20 miles per gallon. (less if you had a lead foot). The new standard is 54.5  miles per gallon, per a White house press release[2] on  August 28, 2012. The release points out that the new standard will result in lowering an individual’s fuel cost by one dollar per gallon. That’s great, but it also reduces the amount of money the government realizes from fuel sales.

Then there is inflation. In 2014, as reported in a White House press release,[3] President Obama used his pen to sign an executive order raising the minimum wage that  Federal contractors must pay to $10.10 an hour. Effectively, that raised the labor cost of repairing Federal highways by 39%, if you believe that every employee made less than $10.10 an hour. Even living in the real world, where very few construction workers make just minimum wage, it still has an impact.

Liberals touted that move and widely proclaimed that it corrected the problem that people earning $7.25 an hour were effectively earning the same wage that was paid in 1968, due to inflationary reduction in buying power.

Um, is it just me, or can anyone else see that inflation is caused in large part by rising prices?

Another large component of inflation is decreased worker productivity. On a national scale, that means that you need to get maximum production value for the least possible wage and input costs. The ACA and the minimum wage hike seem to be having the effect of paying people more in terms of both real wages and mandated benefits, while it reducing the number of hours they can work if they want to receive federal subsidies and benefits. That’s not the way to increase productivity.

In terms of the metrics by which gains or losses in productivity are measured, a change of even a few tenths of a percent significantly impacts national productivity. In less than one year, we have reduced the number of hours that people can work by about 25%, and increased the cost of at least some of the workforce by 39%. If that isn’t creating a negative productivity component, what is?

The point of all this is that for every political agenda pro, there is a con. Too bad the candidates aren’t required to present both to the voters. Just imagine if Nancy Pelosi had run on a campaign slogan that said, “We are going to pass a law that will give every American health  insurance, but it will reduce your workweek, kick you off your present insurance, raise your premiums and take away your doctor?”

 Maybe if we need one of those petition drives demanding that Congress pass a Political Campaign Honesty Act. If nothing else, it would sure cut down on the field of candidates.

 

[1] http://transportationfortomorrow.com/

[2] http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/08/28/obama-administration-finalizes-historic-545-mpg-fuel-efficiency-standard

[3] http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/01/28/fact-sheet-opportunity-all-rewarding-hard-work

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