Monday, March 7, 2011

When progressive theory collides with reality

Rodger Hedgecock

The contradiction between progressive theory and putting that theory into action is a train wreck playing daily in the news headlines.

Progressivism in all its glory has dominated the media and academia for so long only to find that when its dogma is put into practice by the Obama regime, people suffer. Progress it isn't.

Worse still for progressives, implementation of their long-held ideals often pits one group of liberals against another. Consider these examples.

Progressive dogma: Energy independence and recovery from the recession can only be achieved by replacing a petroleum-based economy with a "green energy"-based economy.

Reality: Gasoline costs are skyrocketing. As then-Sen. Obama stated in 2008 when gas prices went up, rising prices are only a nuisance to the rich but crippling to the working poor. President Obama's answer? Cut off oil drilling, reduce supply and all but guarantee further price increases in gas. Let the working poor suffer.

But Obama argues we won't need as much gas if Congress subsidizes, then mandates electric cars. Really? Where will the electricity come from in the green economy?

Obama is mandating wind power. Wind power costs six times more than comparable natural gas or coal-fired electricity plants. Try that equation in the electric bill for your "working family."

What about solar? It's free energy from the sun. The Sierra Club has promoted solar energy for decades only to oppose the first solar power plants in California because they are proposed to be built in a small fraction of the "fragile habitat" of the Mojave Desert – where the sun shines more than any other spot in North America. When solar power plants are permitted, enviros object to the power lines that carry the green energy from the deserts to the city.

What about "green-energy" jobs? Wind turbines are made in Japan and China. It turns out that green-energy manufacturing will act like all other manufacturing and flee high tax and regulation states (and countries). Two California solar panel manufacturing companies that received stimulus grants from Obama have relocated to other states; most solar panels are made in China.

In Spain, a commitment to green energy costs 2.2 manufacturing jobs for every green job created – mostly because the higher price for electricity drove other manufacturing companies out of Spain.

So far, the "green economy" promises to drive down the standard of living for every American. This is progress?

Progressive dogma: Affordable health care for all can only be achieved by government mandate.

Reality: Even before its full implementation in 2014, Obamcare's complex government mandates requiring thousands of new government workers to administer are driving up the cost of health insurance and health care for everybody. New rules sound good (pre-existing condition no bar to coverage), but the cost is spread out over everybody else. The expansion of Medicaid will bankrupt the states and drive the federal government further into insolvency.

(Story continues below)
Do you feel GOOD about where America is going?

We are working to help inform people, to let them see what is going on and then become motivated enough to do something about it.

Readers, the reason we are asking for support is WE NEED your support. Your small monthly donation is what will drive us forward.

Can you make a Monthly Donation? Small or large, it is a great help!

$20, $35, $50, $75, $100

By contrast, the cost of health care and health insurance can be lowered, as with all other products, by competition in a free market. The Los Angeles Times reports that health-care costs are markedly lower in Southern California than in the north of that state. Why? "Southern California's assortment of independent facilities helps keep prices competitive." The threat now? "A wave of mergers threatens" among these "independent facilities" because of the coming complexities of Obamacare.

Obamacare's anti-competitive, government-centric approach will drive up private and public costs of health care while imposing a stifling top-down health dictatorship. This may be called a lot of things, but is it "progress"?

Progressive dogma: The disappearing American middle class is a victim of the free market and can only be saved by union membership and government jobs.

Reality: Unions in government threaten progressive programs for the "poor" and "needy" and also threaten the standard of living of every other American.

You know progressives are in trouble when the lead editorial of the New York Times takes on the government unions. The editorial points out, "At a time when public school students are being forced into ever more crowded classrooms, and poor families will lose state medical benefits, New York State is paying 10 times more for state employees' pensions than it did just a decade ago."

Progressives have eternally blamed the underfunding of schools on stingy taxpayers. When the New York Times blames public employee pension increases for underfunding of schools, this is news.

The Times editorial goes on to document the problem. New York state employees pay only 3 percent of their salaries to their pension, half of other states' public employees. Health insurance payments are half those of comparable private sector employees. All this largesse costs nearly a fifth of the New York State budget. The Times' conclusion? "Unless those costs are reined in, New York will find itself unable to provide even essential services."

Progressive versus progressive. The powerful public employee unions are the backbone of Democrat fundraising and Democrat electoral success. Dues are forcibly collected from the public employees to provide a reliable stream of re-election cash for pro-union Democrats. The very success of these unions now threatens funding for the progressive programs for the "children" and the "needy" that are the heart of progressive dogma.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has pursued a "reasonable course," according to the Times. He is begging the unions to accept a salary freeze (after a 13 percent raise over the last four years) and minor increases in employee contributions for health care and pensions. The unions have said no. Cuomo is threatening to lay off workers to achieve the same fiscal result. Again, laying off workers will presumably hurt the progressive social programs that Cuomo the Progressive defended in his recent election campaign.

Wisconsin's Gov. Scott Walker is pilloried every day in the progressive media for "union busting." But what's the difference between New York and Wisconsin? If the unions will not yield to fiscal reality and state incomes cannot support continued current benefits for the existing sized work force, something's gotta give – whether you are a Democrat or Republican governor.

Either the public employees must reduce their pay and contribute more for their benefits (reducing the inclination to continue to pay union dues) or the number of the public's employees must go down (reducing the dues). Either way, union clout in elections suffers. If unions continue to resist change, and governors are forced to lay off workers, progressive programs suffer.

In every state, Americans are waking up to the fact that public employees are paid better and have way better benefits than private sector workers in comparable positions.

Worse, those taxpayers are now alert to the fact that they are not "at the table" during contract negotiations between government and the unions; they are not even in the room yet have to pay for it all.

In these examples, and in many others, the contradiction of progressivism becomes clear. You cannot hate wealth creation yet depend on wealth creation to pay for government programs. You cannot impoverish taxpayers to prop up bloated, overpaid bureaucracies. The voting public is catching on.

To keep the progressive party going, Michael Moore wants to confiscate all the wealth of "rich people." Mike, it's been done. If you want to live in Cuba or North Korea, move there.