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The Human Cost of the Democrat Legislative Agenda

Commentary by Greg Lewis / NewMediaJournal.US
May 27
, 2007

Where is That '70s Show's Red Forman when you need him to put his foot in somebody's ass? The collective "somebody" I'm referring to are Federal Democrat Congressman and Senators.

First, I'm not clear on one thing: How is it that Democrats, who voted overwhelmingly to wage war against Iraq on the basis of the best evidence extant at the time regarding Saddam Hussein's WMD capabilities, and who, in the interim, have decided that they were wrong wrong wrong in their votes . . . how is it that the same people who voted incorrectly at the time to go to war against Iraq are trying to convince us that they now know whereof they speak with any more certainty than they did several years ago?

How is it that Democrats can admit they were wrong when they cast their votes in favor of invading Iraq only a few years ago, yet they insist that they're right that we need to withdraw our troops from Iraq now?

What's changed?

As far as I can see, the main things that have changed are that Donald Rumsfeld is no longer guiding the strategic deployment of U.S. military forces, and that the U.S. strategy in Iraq has, thanks to General David Petraeus, taken an about-face in recognition that the previous strategy - the small-footprint strategy put forth by Rumsfeld - was not working and that a "troop surge" would be necessary to turn things around and move matters more solidly toward a resolution in Iraq. That resolution would include the political necessity to accommodate both Sunni and Shiite interests, while at the same time recognizing that only through combined U.S. and Iraqi military force capable of challenging sectarian and terrorist (read 'Al Qaeda') power can a political solution be realized.

But the problem of Democrats backing bad legislative and policy decisions has a long history, well beyond their waffling on the War in Iraq. Driven as it is by leftist anti-war and environmentalist extremists, the Democrat legislative agenda has a history of destruction to American lives that demands exposure. I'd like to look at just a few examples here.

First, in the name of cleaning up our environment, Federal legislators, led by Democrats, wrote into law in 1975 what are known as CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards for mileage among automobile manufacturers. This was a direct response to the oil embargo imposed by OPEC nations in 1973. The intent of the legislation was to reduce our dependency on foreign oil and to improve air quality. Instead, it has had the effect, not simply of degrading, but of eliminating the quality of life altogether for tens of thousands of Americans. (For a comprehensive discussion of energy policy legislation in the Department of Energy whitepaper "Federal Energy Subsidies: Direct and Indirect Interventions in Energy Markets," follow this link:

The reasons can be found in a huge blind spot in Democrats' thinking. I'm speaking of the fact that they're unable to conceptualize in any but socialist terms about economic issues. This has resulted in their inability to understand that the U.S. economy is a market economy, and that there are market forces at work which will prevail, even as Dems try to stifle them.

CAFE standards govern the average mileage that must be achieved by an auto manufacturer over its total vehicle production. That means that if you've got several models that use greater amounts of gasoline, you've got to offset them with models that are more fuel efficient. And offset them the manufacturers did.
Now the easiest way to improve gas mileage is to reduce the weight of the vehicle in question. In order to meet the arbitrary standards of legislation designed to short-circuit the free market, manufacturers introduced what amounts to the automotive equivalent of ultra-light aircraft. They introduced models that were very lightweight and, as a result (to quote Ralph Nader, who favored this legislation), "unsafe at any speed."

Highway deaths skyrocketed as people took to the highways in their new fuel-efficient autos. As many as 50,000 people have died unnecessarily as a result of the reduction in the weight of autos since the legislation was enacted. John Denver had nothing on the folks who go out on the highways ill-protected because of bad legislation.

Problem is, the newly mandated fuel economy standards haven't achieved the intended results. Something called the free market intervened. Cars have become about 50% more fuel-efficient in past 30 years or so, but Americans are driving about twice as much as they used to, effectively cancelling out the gains in efficiency. But not cancelling out the excess deaths.

Don't, however, wait for Dems and environmentalists to admit that they made a mistake. Unless, of course, you're talking about voting for the War in Iraq, which has arguably prevented more American deaths than it has caused, given that Islamist terrorists seem much less inclined to attack us on our own shores.
But the Democrat/Environmentalist Destruction Machine isn't confined to simply killing people through legislation; it's also adept at merely ruining lives. Take the infamous "spotted owl" laws of the 1990s, another instance of good intentions achieving horrible results.

You'll recall that the Spotted Owl legislation was enacted for the purpose of saving a species of owl whose habitat consisted primarily of old-growth forests in the American Northwest. The law pretty much shut down logging of those forests so that the natural environment of the Northern Spotted Owl - and thus, presumably, the species itself - could be preserved. It's been more than ten years since the Clinton Administration engineered this legislation and put a virtual halt to the logging of old growth forests in Washington, Oregon, and Northern California. In that time, the ban has resulted in the closing of nearly 1,000 sawmills and pulp and paper mills, and more than 130,000 people have been deprived of their livelihoods through the loss of their jobs. The legislation designed to save the Spotted Owl has destroyed hundreds of small towns which had grown up around logging-related businesses.

The problem is that in the years following the passage of this legislation, the population of Spotted Owls has continued to decline . . . by a whopping seven percent a year in Washington state alone. As it turns out, it wasn't the destruction of habitat caused by logging that was at the root of the decline in the Spotted Owl population; instead, it was the incursion into the Spotted Owl's habitat of another species, the Barred Owl.

It had long been observed that Barred Owls, larger and more aggressive than Spotted Owls, tended to move into areas occupied by Spotted Owls, competing with their smaller cousins for dominance, and, what is more important, winning. Despite the fact that this information was widely known in the scientific community at the time the Spotted Owl legislation was enacted, it failed to surface during debate. With this in mind, it can certainly be supposed that Democrats, intelligent and informed people that they pride themselves to be, were very likely aware of it.

If Democrats and environmentalists had acknowledged research to that effect at the time of the legislative debate, they could have spared several hundred thousand American men, women, and children the devastating consequences of having their families' livelihoods taken from them for no legitimate reason. Had they acted upon information that they certainly must have been aware of regarding the real reason for the Spotted Owl's decline, they could have prevented what amounts to nothing less than a contemporary American tragedy.

And while they seem bent on continuing their ignorance-based legislative and policy initiatives for the foreseeable future, the good news is that their folly seems to be being exposed. More and more it's becoming clear to a significant percentage of Americans precisely what the enactment of Democrat legislative initiatives means to them and their fellow citizens. And that can't be good for Democrats when we go to the polls next year. Indeed, I have a feeling that, as a result of Democrats' legislative ineptitude, we voters are going to be able to take up where Red Forman left off.


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