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Jewish World Review March 16, 2000 /9 Adar II, 5760

Thomas Sowell

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Amazing politics -- IN AMERICAN POLITICS, the only thing more amazing than the Democrats are the Republicans.

How are the Democrats amazing? Let me count the ways.

Whether it is petroleum, housing or teachers, Democrats restrict the supply and are then astonished at the inevitable bad consequences. It is not a breakthrough on the frontiers of economics to say that supply and demand influence prices. But it always catches liberal Democrats by surprise -- and they always manage to blame someone else for it.

Who is against drilling for oil offshore or in many other locations? Liberal Democrats like Al Gore. Who is shocked and outraged that gasoline prices are rising? Liberal Democrats.

When OPEC restricts the oil supply, we all understand that gasoline prices rise as a result. But when Democrats restrict the oil supply, it comes as a big surprise that gasoline prices rise.

California liberal Democrats are in charge of state and local governments, almost down to the dog catchers. They impose costly restrictions and requirements on gasoline over and beyond those of the federal government.

Then they are outraged that gasoline costs more in California than in other states.

It is the same story with housing. Liberal Democrats love to restrict the supply of land on which housing can be built, in the name of "open spaces," "quality of life" and the like. They also impose restrictions and costs on builders. Yet who makes the most noise about a lack of "affordable housing"? You guessed it.

We are now starting to hear noises from the teachers' unions about an impending "teacher shortage" -- and of course whatever they say is dutifully echoed by the Democrats, who are beholden to them for both money and election-night manpower in the precincts.

Why do we not hear about this terrible teacher shortage from the private schools? Because the private schools are not subject to the same restrictions on supply that the public schools are -- restrictions created and defended at all costs by Democrats.

Private schools can hire anyone who can teach, whether or not they have taken courses in schools or departments of education. These mind-numbing courses in education are a tariff barrier that keeps out many people with real education, who would be tough competition for those currently teaching in the public schools.

The question is always posed as to how it is possible to attract more people into the public schools. The answer that both the teachers' unions and the Democrats want is more money. But that has already been tried for decades and all that it has produced is more expensive incompetence.

You can create an artificial shortage of anything -- whether teachers or land fill -- just by restricting the supply. This is not rocket science. It is politics.

Why are the Republicans so amazing? Because they let the Democrats get away with complete misstatements of these and other issues that the general public could understand -- if only someone would take the trouble to explain it to them.

Republicans seem to be determined to be the strong silent types. Explaining the obvious seems to have no attraction for them. Coordinating what they say among themselves is even less likely to happen with Republicans.

Among Democrats, whether in the White House or on capitol hill, whether big pooh-bahs or lowly staffers, they say the same things in the same words.

Whether it is "tax cuts for the rich" or "it does not rise to the level of impeachment," they are all on the same page.

Republicans aren't even in the same book. When they come on the air, they sound as if this is the first time they have ever thought about what they are going to say. They all fumble for different words.

Nor is there any sign that the Republicans are even aware that a lack of articulation is one of their biggest problems. Like most problems, it is not likely to be solved until after you become aware of it.

What can the Republicans do? It is hard to imagine anything that they are likely to do.

Perhaps they could get Rush Limbaugh to conduct a communications boot camp for Republicans and give a swift kick in the behind to anyone who uses mealy-mouth words or lapses into Beltway jargon. Extreme? Yes. But desperate problems sometimes call for desperate measures.

JWR contributor Thomas Sowell, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, is author, most recently, of The Quest for Cosmic Justice.


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©1999, Creators Syndicate