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Thomas Sowell
Thomas Sowell
9 Feb 2016
Toxic Words

During this election year, we are destined to hear many words that are toxic in the way they misrepresent … Read More.

2 Feb 2016
Random Thoughts

Random thoughts on the passing scene: Will this November's presidential election come down to a choice … Read More.

2 Feb 2016
After Iowa

Senator Ted Cruz's upset victory against Donald Trump has robbed "The Donald" of his stock answer to any … Read More.

The Art of the Impossible


Whoever called politics "the art of the possible" must have had a strange idea of what is possible or a strange idea of politics, where the impossible is one of the biggest vote-getters.

People can get the possible on their own. Politicians have to be able to offer the voters something that they cannot get on their own. The impossible fills that bill perfectly.

As a noted economist has pointed out, nothing "could prevent the California electorate from simultaneously demanding low electricity prices and no new generating plants while using ever increasing amounts of electricity."

You want the impossible? You got it. Politicians don't get elected by saying "No" to voters.

Of course Californians also got electricity blackouts and, in order to deal with the blackouts, a multi-billion dollar surplus in the state's treasury was turned into a multi-billion dollar deficit, followed by cutbacks in various other government programs, followed by calls for higher taxes.

You want the government to create more jobs for people when there is widespread unemployment? It's been done. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the government employed more young men in the Civilian Conservation Corps than there were in the Army. The money to pay for all this had to come from somewhere— and that meant that there was less money left to employ other people in the private sector. While jobs created by the government may not have reduced total unemployment, these jobs increased votes for the administration, which is the real bottom line in politics.

Are you for "open space" laws forbidding building and also for "affordable housing"? Don't be discouraged by the fact that severe building restrictions have sent housing prices sky-rocketing in community after community.

It may be impossible to have "open space" laws and "affordable housing" at the same time, but what are politicians there for, except to figure out ways to give us the impossible?

Palo Alto, California, where housing prices nearly quadrupled in one decade after severe building restrictions were imposed, also pioneered in laws mandating that each builder agree to sell a certain percentage of any new housing "below market."

In other words, they combined "open space" laws with "affordable housing." Who says the impossible cannot be achieved?

Of course this system can work only where just a fraction of the new housing is sold "below market." Moreover, the market price of housing is raised so far above what it was by building restrictions that even "below market" prices for condominiums in Palo Alto can run to $300,000 or $400,000.

This is hardly "affordable housing" for people on modest incomes.

Only 7 percent of Palo Alto's police, for example, live in Palo Alto— probably older cops who bought their homes long ago.

But none of that matters politically. What matters is that people in Palo Alto can feel good about themselves, by being for both "open space" and "affordable housing." Happy voters are what get politicians re-elected.

The big political crusade today is for "affordable" medical care through the government. No one believes that government is just going to be more efficient, and thereby have lower costs that will be reflected in lower prices for medications and medical treatment.

It might seem as if adding the costs of government bureaucracies to the costs of medications and medical treatment would make it impossible for the total costs to go down. But again, the impossible is no problem in politics.

Many countries around the world already have government-run medical care. People who get sick in these countries usually wait much longer to get treatment, including months on waiting lists for surgery, often paying in pain or debilitation, rather than money.

High-tech medical devices like MRIs are also far less common in these countries than in the United States. With medical care as with anything else, you can always get poorer quality at a lower price, though that is no bargain, especially when you are sick.

What you may have in mind are lower prices with no reduction in quality. While that may be impossible, don't expect that fact to stop politicians from offering it, even if they can't deliver.

To find out more about Thomas Sowell and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. His Web site is



1 Comments | Post Comment
For the New Year, here's a little humor that should be taken seriously! If not, our children don't have a future!

Taxpayers are fed up with all the trillions of their hard-earned money being thrown to the wind! The
following is a humorous way to describe what's happened in government and the downfall of America
that's been created by the‘Tax and Spenders' just so they can get re-elected! I'm quoting:

“I bought a bird feeder. I hung it on my back porch. I filled it with seed. I admired the beauty of
this bird feeder, as I filled it lovingly with seed. Within a week, hundreds of birds were
taking advantage of the continuous flow of free and easily accessible food.

But then the birds started building nests in the boards of the patio, above the table, and next to the
barbecue. Then came the poop. It was everywhere: on the patio tile, the chairs, the table, even on
gutters and window seals!

Then some of the birds turned mean. They would dive bomb and try to peck me even though I had
fed them out of my own pocket.

And others birds were boisterous and loud. The sat on the feeder and squawked and screamed
all hours of the day and night and demanded that I fill the bird feeder when it got low on food.

After a while, I couldn't even sit on my own back porch. So I took down the bird feeder and in three
days the birds were gone. I cleaned up their mess. I took down the many nests they had built all over
the patio.

Soon, the back yard was like it used to be ... quiet, serene and no one demanding their “rights to a free

Now let's see .... Our government gives out free food, subsidizes housing for illegitimates, having more
illegitimates, free medical care, free education and allows anyone born to be an automatic citizen.

Then the illegals come by the tens of thousands. Suddenly taxes are tripled just to pay for free services;
small apartments are housing 5 families with illegitimates; Taxpayers have to wait 6 hours to be seen
by an emergency room doctor; your child's 2nd grade class is behind other schools because over half
the class doesn't speak English.

Check you cereal boxes. They now come in a bilingual box. I have to 'press one' to hear my bank talk
to me in English. People waving flags other than 'Old Glory' are squawking and screaming in the
streets, demanding more rights and free liberties.

Taxpayers opinion, it's time to make government take down the bird feeders!

Comment: #1
Posted by: Shirley deLong
Tue Dec 30, 2008 1:36 PM
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