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What is the Deal?

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January 21, 2007

A Waste of Time

By Jan A. Larson

So the House Democrats finished their "first 100 hours" law passing party in only 43 hours.  Hopefully they will all take the remaining 57 hours off considering that the hours spent were a waste of time.

Touting their magnanimous commitment to the "little man," they stabbed that man in the back by passing an increase in the minimum wage.  The effect of raising the minimum wage was clearly demonstrated by the furor over the exemption of American Samoa from the bill.

As American Samoa's non-voting representative, Democrat Eni Faleomavaega explained, "Raising the federal minimum wage would devastate the local tuna industry."  Should Chicken of the Sea and Starkist, the two largest employers in American Samoa, determine that it is in their interest to move operations elsewhere thanks to increased labor costs, then the residents of American Samoa will know exactly who to thank for their new $0 per hour jobs.

The other five bills rushed through without amendment or committee hearings included a bill the implements some of the recommendations from the 9/11 commission, a bill to expand federal funding of stem cell research, a measure to require the government to negotiate for lower drug prices under the Medicare prescription drug program, a bill that cuts the interest rate to 3.4% for subsidized student loans and, finally and thankfully, a bill that repeals some tax breaks for oil and gas companies.

What do all of these have in common?  They will all leave taxpayers reaching for their wallets.  Of course no one can be surprised that a Democrat controlled Congress will send taxpayers running for cover.

I can't say that I'm opposed for repealing subsidies to oil and gas companies although this will ultimately lead to higher prices at the pump.  The problem, of course, is that the money "saved" by repealing the subsidies for oil and gas is going to go to subsidize renewable energy source research.  It is just a game of robbing the taxpayer to pay Peter instead of paying Paul.

There is no compelling reason for any federal funding of stem cell research.  Again, federal funding of any kind of research ends up costing many times more than if private concerns would perform the research to meet a need in the marketplace.  I don't recall that "funding research" for any purpose is one of the powers reserved to the federal government in the Constitution.  However, that genie is out of the bottle and is the subject for another time.

The idea of cutting interest rates on student loans to make college more "affordable" is laughable on its face.  The interest rate on a student loan only comes into play after the student has graduated and has a job.  This is just another example of politicians, Democrats in this case but it could just as easily been Republicans, pushing through legislation that sounds good, but really doesn't solve a problem, but merely pushes that problem onto someone else.  As is usually the case, this problem is pushed onto taxpayers, that is, the people who actually have jobs and actually pay taxes.

If Congress really wanted to do something to solve problems with Medicare, they would have repealed the Medicare drug program.  Instead they passed a bill that would require the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate for drugs covered by Medicare.  This sounds good, until you realize that the government will become the largest customer of the drug companies.

When the largest customer tells a business what they will pay, they are in effect, making an offer that cannot be refused.  What will this mean?  It will ultimately stifle drug research and development and Medicare patients will ultimately end up with "trailing edge" medications.  At least they will be affordable.

I can hardly wait for this Congress to tackle some real issues such as border security, Social Security and tax reform.  Then again, with a record like this, it is hard to envision that the Democrats would do anything that solves these serious problems.  Maybe we should simply be thankful that the Democrats didn't want to spend 200 hours passing laws.

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