Flight From Reality

Posted: Jul 28, 2007 12:00 AM
Flight From Reality

BINGHAMPTON, NY-- Sports fans can be forgiven for believing that their avocation draws the world’s most intelligent people into its ranks. After all, successful managers in baseball (Tony LaRussa, Billy Martin), football (Bill Belichick, Steve Spurrier) and basketball (Pat Reilly, Mike Krzyzewski) are repeatedly touted in the media as “geniuses.”

However, there’s one place where the collective brainpower of the residents outweighs even that of the locker room: the halls of Congress.

Even the casual observer knows that our lawmakers are the world’s smartest people. Watch any congressional hearing. Lawmakers always know exactly what went wrong. And they know exactly how to fix any problem. In fact, they often act as if there never would have been any problem at all, if only they had they been in charge.

This is, to put it mildly, surprising. When it comes to addressing problems, Congress hardly possesses a perfect record. These are the people who gave us Sarbanes-Oxley, a law that has driven many companies to launch their Initial Public Offering overseas instead of on an American exchange. They also wrote the McCain-Feingold legislation in a misguided attempt to keep money out of politics. And let’s not even get started on the Iraq war, where one of our brightest leaders “voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it.”

Still, they’ll never allow past failures to stand in their way. Lawmakers stand ready to wade into any situation, even those that should be left to the free market.

Consider a recent incident involving Delta Air Lines. The company announced on July 12 that it would discontinue its service from here to New York City. "They're saying, 'Look, we tried it, and it didn't work. We're not going to continue losing this money,'" airline consultant Michael Boyd told Binghamton’s Press & Sun-Bulletin.

Whoa, not so fast, announced Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. He says he quickly dialed the airline’s CEO. “I stressed the need for them to give air service in Binghamton adequate time to grow and prosper,” Schumer announced.

Of course, the senator’s interest is understandable on one level. He represents the people of Binghamton, and he wants them to think he’s doing everything possible to further their interests. But the bottom line here is, well, the bottom line. Delta has to decide what’s in its best financial interest. It simply can’t afford to lose money to appease a vocal senator.

Air travel is just the tip of the interventionist iceberg, though. There’s a bigger issue on the horizon, one that lawmakers are even more eager to meddle in: health care.

New York’s junior Democratic senator was here on July 16 to visit Binghamton University’s nursing school. The time is ripe, Hillary Clinton says, for the government to get even more involved in health policy.

Wait a moment -- haven’t we seen this film before? After all, Mrs. Clinton was in charge of her husband’s drive to “fix” health care back in 1993, before most of us even knew it was broken. Let’s recall that her effort collapsed. In fact, she even managed to lose the support of key Democrats, including Daniel Patrick Moynihan (the man whose seat she now fills).

But, she insists, times have changed. "The difference between now and then is people have firsthand experience of why it needs to change," Clinton announced. "It's more and more likely I will have a CEO come and see me and say 'do something about health care.' I think the political atmosphere has changed."

Actually, about the only thing that’s changed is that we’ve recently seen what government-controlled health care looks like. It looks like Walter Reed. The abuses there should give lawmakers pause before they try to nationalize the entire healthcare system.

So let’s give Congress a test run. Before we allow them to take over health care, let’s allow them to run an airline -- their way. Lawmakers would surely insist that their airline serve every airport in every state in the country, which will ensure that “Congress Air” (as we’ll call it) will go belly up pretty quickly. That should serve as a lesson to them that there are some subjects even lawmakers aren’t smart enough to manage.

No matter how smart they think they are, lawmakers can’t do better than the free-market system. Congress can’t “fix” health care by nationalizing it. We’ll all be better off if it doesn’t even try.