When Good Ideas Become Bad Ideas

Mark Davis

2/15/2013 12:01:00 AM - Mark Davis

For the conservative willing to endure it, President Obama’s State of the Union address was actually a handy lesson in how the left garners support for barrages of spending.

As such, it is also a guide for how to argue against it.

The President uses the predictable method of identifying something widely loved and then shoe-horning it into the only approved package-- government spending.

Take infrastructure. I am proud of my state of Texas as it looks for all kinds of things to cut to achieve fiscal sanity. But if there is one thing we need to pony up for, it is roads. This is probably true in most states.

This makes states hungry for the largesse of federal grants that will help them fix potholes and bolster bridges.

But that is the crack pipe that got us into our current mess. If my state has roads and bridges to fix, we will fix them. We will have enough money to fix them if Washington stops robbing us blind to fix roads in Indiana.

Similarly, Hoosiers will have enough money for highways from Gary to Evansville if the federal government stops sucking money out of those good people to fix a bridge down the road from my house.

So, to crystallize: fixing infrastructure is a great idea. Sending money to Washington so it can be crammed into its fraudulent, corruption-laden digestive tract is a horrible idea. Other than interstate highways, a federal network that was a good idea, states should handle their own infrastructure.

And pretty well everything else.

Take preschool. The President described a dire fate for kids not prodded into a public school at age 4. The White House gasps that only 3 of 10 kids are in a “good” preschool.

Know where another 3 or 4 are? At home with their perfectly good mothers, learning to read and write with presumably the same effectiveness as under the tutelage of a teacher’s union member in a room with 15 other kids.

Pre-school is great. It’s nice to have it in your town if you want to send your kids there. How many preschools should a state have? As many as its residents wish to pay for.

If the people of Minnesota want a preschool on every corner, they can build them without help from me. If some other state spends markedly less on preschools, that is the will of the people. Parents finding this unacceptable may lobby for more finding or call the movers.

I do not want the President “working with the states” on this. I want him leaving the states alone to do whatever they wish.

Any time this President wants to “work with” your state, grab your wallet tightly, because he’s coming for it.

Another Obama phrase aimed right at your bank account is “the wealthiest nation on Earth.” Anytime he says that’s what we are, your wealth is about to take a hit, because he has it in his sights for his latest redistributionist whim.

This was the setup for the absurd recklessness of a $9-per-hour minimum wage.

A minimum wage increase is a bad idea because having a minimum wage is a bad idea. It is none of government’s business what I want to pay workers at my business.

If I am paying chicken feed, I will not get good workers. If I have applicants for every position, I am offering something they are willing to take.

This is a perfect marketplace balance. The moment someone accepts a job, we learn the exact point at which employer and employee are satisfied with the transaction.

Government intrusion only screws this up. Do you know how many businesses would hire kids during the summer to sweep up for six bucks an hour? Do you know how many kids would take those jobs for 10 hours a week, distracting them from the evils of idleness?

Maybe six bucks wouldn’t attract flies. Maybe the kids would need seven, or eight, just to sweep up. Employers would decide whether or not to create those jobs.

But the common thread is individual decision-making, the engine that drives free markets. Workers accepting or not accepting a position. Employers choosing what jobs to offer and what to pay.

Like a fixed road or a kid in a great preschool, a two-dollar raise is a wonderful thing. But once again, it all turns very dark when it arrives on the wings of federal edict.

Why stop at nine dollars? Why not a twelve-dollar minimum wage? Why not twenty?

The President says this could be a difference-maker, between just getting by and progressing, between starving and eating, whatever the dichotomies were.

It’s a difference-maker, all right-- between having a job and getting fired, which is exactly what will happen to countless people who need work most, as soon as employers feel the crush of Washington-mandated spikes in labor costs.

At a time when jobs are at the top of every wish list, along comes an idea crippling our ability to create them. Genius.

So the lesson is: Washington should have no say in the status of the roads we drive on, the schools we build or the salaries of our jobs.

When your liberal (or inattentive) friends harp on the desirability of certain goals, remind them that there almost no solution works best when funneled through Washington.

Want more preschools? Pay for them in your state. Want better roads? Pay for them in your state. All with the delicious extra money we will have when the feds stop pilfering billions to dole out as they please.

Want a two-dollar raise? Earn it. I winced at the example of the family living on minimum wage. The minimum wage is not meant as a platform for supporting our families. It is an entry-level springboard from which we are supposed to prove and improve ourselves, usually before we bring children into the world.

Get ready for a lot more of this. The administration will continue to offer up things many people want. A sleepy nation will continue to nod, even though their costs are ruinous. We must argue that we share many goals, but have a different and far more efficient way to pay for them.