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Issues & Insights

Why Do Democrats Keep Pushing Ideas That Are Known Failures?

Over the weekend, half a dozen presidential hopefuls in the Democratic party attend a union sponsored event called “National Forum on Wages and Working People,” at which they all pledged to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 if elected.

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said he wants $15 to be the minimum age. “Where living costs are higher, like New York, Los Angeles, and maybe Las Vegas, we will go above $15 an hour.”

Have none of these Democrats heard about what happened when Seattle jacked its minimum wage up? Or what’s happening right now in New York, which now requires restaurants to pay a $15 minimum?

A study by university economists of Seattle’s wage hike found that it depressed average incomes among entry-level workers. Why? Because employers cut back hours and hired fewer workers, more than offsetting the cost of the wage hike.

Courtesy of Mark Perry at Carpe Diem.

New York’s $15 minimum has sparked a severe jobs recession in the city for restaurant workers, a fact exposed by University of Michigan economist Mark Perry. Using government data, he found that the number of full-service restaurant jobs has plunged more since the city started cranking up the minimum wage than it did during the Great Recession.

Keep in mind that a $15 minimum wage would be double the current federal minimum, and almost 30% higher than it’s ever been in history — once you adjust for inflation.

If high-priced areas like New York and Seattle can’t absorb forced increases in their labor costs, imagine the impact on “flyover” country.

Yet, a $15 minimum is essentially the official position of the Democrat party.

If that were the end of the bad ideas the party’s leaders were pushing, it would be bad enough. But it’s just the beginning. Most of the major policy proposals coming from Democrats these days, in fact, have already been tried and failed, either here or abroad or both.

Green New Failure

Democrats quickly rallied behind freshmen socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal. The full cost of this program is incalculable, since it’s so sweeping. But when the American Action Forum set out to put a price tag on it, they came up with $93 trillion.

That’s for a program that we know won’t work, because it’s been tried and failed elsewhere. Germany, for example, spend $580 billion overhauling its energy system with the specific goal of making it less carbon intensive. It’s been a disaster.

By 2016, greenhouse gas emission were slightly higher in Germany than they were seven years ealier, according to data compiled by the OECD. In the U.S. — which did next to nothing other than let the free market work its magic — carbon emissions dropped by almost 3%. Germany’s increased reliance on renewables has also made its electric grid more unstable, since it generates too little energy on windless, dark days, and too much on sunny/windy days.

Meanwhile, an analysis of the Green New Deal by the American Enterprise Institute found that it “would have no effect on climate phenomena” because “the future temperature impacts of the zero-emissions objective would be barely distinguishable from zero.”

Universal Basic Bust

Another rising favorite among Democrats is the idea of a guaranteed income. Andrew Yang, one of the multitude of presidential contenders, says that every adult in the country should get a universal basic income of $1,000 each month. Kamala Harris has also endorsed the idea, as have all those who jumped on AOC’s Green New Deal, which includes guaranteed income in its policy mix. The idea is now officially a part of the California Democratic Party’s platform.

But we already know this idea doesn’t work.

Last April, socialist paradise Finland ended its own short-lived experiment with a universal basic income, which gave 2,000 non-working people $685 a month. Backers thought the guaranteed income would free people up to look for work. It didn’t happen.

Heikki Hiilamo, a University of Helskinki professor of social policy explained that: “There is a problem with young people lacking secondary education, and reports of those guys not seeking work. There is a fear that with basic income they would just stay home and play computer games.”

The U.S. itself experimented with something similar in the 1970s, when it tested a “negative income tax.”

“In the 1970s, the government ran four random control experiments across six states to try the negative income tax, a similar policy proposal that was popular at the time,” wrote Mimi Teixeira in The Daily Signal. “In each text, the work disincentive effect was disastrous. For every $1,000 in added benefits to a family, there was an average reduction in $660 of wages from work.”

Free College Flop

How about free college, which many presidential contenders support.

Doesn’t work. Writing for Fox News, Kayleigh McEnany noted that:

“Democrats ignore the failed free-college experiment in the United Kingdom, which increased inequality and depleted student resources, therefore leading the British to reintroduce tuition. Democrats likewise ignore that “college-attainment rates were higher in G-7 countries that charged tuition than in those that did not.”

Socialized Non-Care

Then there’s Medicare for All.

You just need to read the daily horror stories that come out of the UK to know where a Medicare for All system will lead the country. Britain faces an ongoing, worsening crisis of shortages, endless delays, care denials, and spiraling costs. Both Canada and the UK are increasingly relying on private payers to finance health care their governments can’t or won’t provide.

Even the leftist Vox.com admitted that other countries have tried to create a sweeping Medicare for All system here. It recently noted that:

About half of the countries that attempt to build single-payer systems fail. That’s Harvard health economist William Hsiao’s estimate after working with about 10 governments in the past two decades. Whether he is in Taiwan, Cyprus, or Vermont, the process is roughly the same: Meet with legislators, draw up a plan, write legislation. Only half of those bills actually become law. The part where it collapses is, inevitably, when the country has to pay for it.

Espousing big government policies when you don’t know how they will turn out is one thing. Advocating for massively expensive programs that you know are going to fail is something else entirely.


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John Merline

Veteran journalist John Merline was Deputy Editor of Commentary and Opinion at Investor's Business Daily. Before IBD, he launched and edited the Opinion section of AOL News, and was a member of the editorial board of USA Today, where he continues to be a regular contributor. He’s been published in the Washington Post, National Review, Detroit News, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Forbes, and numerous other publications. He is regular commentator on the One America News Network and on local talk radio. He got his start in journalism under the tutelage of M. Stanton Evans.

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