I have a long history of dumb ideas.
It was my idea buy a used, 1999 diesel Volkswagen Beetle. There’s a reason you don’t see many of them on the road today.
It was my idea, as a boy, to play darts near our old gas furnace. How was I supposed to know a dart could puncture a gas line? The fire department was wondering the same thing.
And it was my idea to put a pan of burning oil under a running faucet. The little mushroom cloud that followed generated a surprising amount of black smoke.
Expect for the dart incident - for which half the block was evacuated - my dumb ideas have been generally victimless, unless I count myself as a victim.
When governments come up with dumb ideas and create laws to support them, the consequences can range from insignificant to far-reaching.
For example, in the city of Wells, Maine, it’s illegal to advertise on your tombstone. Fortunately, someone had the foresight to see that cemeteries would eventually be an untapped marketing resource.
Neither Republicans nor Democrats have the market cornered on bad and/or dumb ideas. American history is replete with legislation aimed at scoring political points with various constituencies.
But lately, progressives have been outdoing themselves.
One of my favorite wacky proposals is the “Freedom Dividend,” courtesy of tech mogul and Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang. He wants to give every American between the ages of 18-64 $1,000 a month for doing absolutely nothing. It’s a massive, wealth-redistribution proposal that would be paid for by - surprise - raising taxes, including a 10 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) on just about all goods and services.
As part of her Green New Deal, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has also promised economic security for anyone “unable or unwilling” to work. The “unwilling to work” line was on her website until she walked back the verbiage and took it down. She still wants to give away money for nothing but she’s just calling it something else.
Ocasio-Cortez’s Democratic colleague, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, has proposed that the federal minimum wage be raised to $20 per hour. Why stop there? Why not just raise it to $50? The result will be the same - scores of small business will either go under or be forced to lay off employees.
And in a moment that might have raised the bar for political pandering to new heights, New York City mayor and Democratic presidential candidate Bill DeBlasio - while attending the parade for the U.S. women’s national soccer team - promised to sign an executive order requiring equal pay for male and female athletes. That sounds great as a platform talking point but it’s much more complicated than proponents would have you believe. For starters, the men’s World Cup generated $6 billion last year. This year’s women’s World Cup took in about $131 million. Thus, the disparity in prize money.
But for a real-life glimpse at ultra-progressivism, I take you to Berkeley, Calif., a city that bills itself as a bastion of free thought, at least until someone with an unpopular opinion shows up and trash cans start flying through windows.
The Berkeley City Council recently voted to eliminate gender-specific language from its municipal codes. The measure passed unanimously.
Among other things, this means that the word “manhole” will be replaced with “maintenance hole.” “Manpower” is now “human effort.” A “pregnant woman” is a “pregnant employee.” Sororities and fraternities are now “Collegiate Greek system residence.”
We can have a long discussion about gender neutrality versus the obvious uniqueness of men and women. The movement by progressives to eliminate gender-specific language is a lot of things - disturbing, unnecessary, perhaps even dangerous. It’s also incredibly silly.
Surely there are Democrats out there who find this kind of stuff equally silly, though they’re very quiet about it.
And as long as they remain silent while the party’s hijacking to socialism continues, it’s going to become increasingly difficult to convince voters - especially independents - that the Democrats are a viable alternative to the status quo.
What will this ultimately mean to the Democrats’ chances of winning the White House in 2020?
Yes, right down the maintenance hole.
Rich Manieri is a Philadelphia-born journalist and author. You can reach him at email@example.com.