Monday, November 20, 2006

All it took was a Democratic Congress

So we go out and elect Democrats to a majority in both Houses of Congress and we get all kinds of exciting things. Such as?

Well, that long-expected return to the Military Draft that had every 18-year old in the country scared half-to-death in 2004:

Question: Do some newly ascendant Democrats have a political death wish? Do some seem to want to take the blank slate of imagery the election provided them and scribble a silly or alarming political caricature on it so it will be seized by opponents, then held up as the face of their party as a whole?

It certainly sounds that some of them do:

Americans would have to sign up for a new military draft after turning 18 under a bill the incoming chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee says he will introduce next year. Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., said Sunday he sees his idea as a way to deter politicians from launching wars.Rangel's public comment also will require that if Democrats defend it they come up with some political amnesia: in 2004 John Kerry charged that it was George Bush who was going to revive the draft. The charge was dismissed by the White House.

Kerry told The Des Moines Register, "With George Bush, the plan for Iraq is more of the same and the great potential of a draft."Mr. Bush vowed in the second presidential debate that, if he's re-elected, "We're not going to have a draft, period."

So this was idea deemed alarming enough for Kerry to raise, claiming that Bush was thinking about it.

But perhaps Kerry's psychic powers merely picked up the wrong wave length: it was Rangel thinking of it all along.

Well, yes it was. You'll recall that the bill that got an epic slapdown to the tune of 402-2 was sponsored by Rangel, not Kerry and most certainly not President Bush.

It's all politics, all the time. Stupid politics to boot. Nobody seriously wants this, nor is it truly necessary.

What is necessary is the only decent idea John Kerry had in 2004, namely adding at least two (or 5, maybe another 10) combat divisions to the US Armed Forces. That can be done without a draft.

So, what else are we getting you ask? Wages are up, everybody's rakin' in the dough!:

American paychecks are rising again at a pace not seen since the 1990s.

The pay increase amounts to 4 percent on average over the past 12 months, and it comes at a very helpful time for millions of households.

For three years, pay increases haven't kept pace with the rising cost of living. Then came this year's housing slowdown, which has further squeezed family finances.

Those setbacks, however, are now being offset by rising income. Four percent may not sound like much, but you have to look back to 1997 to find a calendar year with a gain that big.

Equally significant, tamer energy prices mean that the "real" wage gains, after inflation, are above 3 percent for the past 12 months. That, too, hasn't happened since the 1990s, even though the economy has been expanding over the past five years.

"The striking feature of this expansion has been that ... real wages for the typical worker haven't risen that much," says Richard Berner, US economist at the investment bank Morgan Stanley in New York. But with real incomes rising, he says, "you get a picture of an economy that can weather this housing storm."

The risk of recession hasn't disappeared, he and other economists say. But with a fairly tight job market and low unemployment, many expect that paychecks will keep rising solidly in 2007.

And if you're like me, you can't wait to see Congress do it's best to put a dent in all that good news with a minimum-wage increase next year. I understand the argument for it, but it seems they never quite get the argument for how it helps kill an economy's forward momentum.

Living in California, I recall fondly the days that we set the pace for many trends, including even economic ones ( be recession-proof again!). Since we've done our best to get ahead of the curve on this I guess we'll play the canary in the coal mine. I'll let you know how the economy's going sometime in February when we're in the middle of the new Quarter.

Glenn ties the package neatly together with a reader's observation: Reader Brian Gates, who sends the link, comments: "Less than 2 weeks after the Democrats gained control of Congress, wages are increasing. Imagine how much upward wage pressure there will be after the labor pool is cut by a million men due to Rangel's draft."

If I'd known that all it took was a Democratic Congress to bring about such potentially-disastrous policy decisions, I'd have advocated a Democratic sweep in '02!

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