Please, No More “Common Sense”

Commentary by Jim GilchristJim Gilchrist – MMP Exclusive – How many times have we heard that immigration reform is just “common sense”? President Obama says it at every opportunity, as if the debate is settled.

Business leaders point to a huge economic windfall. Immigration reform will create jobs, enlarge the tax base, and save social security.  It’s just “common sense”.

At the state level, governors and mayors say they need immigrants to save their financially floundering cities. In bankrupt Detroit, for example, local leaders say immigrants could reverse the city’s fortunes. It’s just “common sense”.

Here are some infamous policy disasters that were also touted by advocates as “common sense”…

With the elevation of the Department of Education to cabinet-level status in 1979, supporters claimed federal standards would ensure the nation’s school children would be better prepared to compete in the emerging global marketplace.  It was just “common sense” they said.  American children have been falling behind the rest of the world ever since, not only in math and science, but in just about every other education metric.

Under federal supervision, the education crisis is so bad that 40 states have applied for and received waivers from another “common sense” policy: No Child Left Behind. The waivers introduce the concept of reality in terms of accountability and performance expectations for schools, recognizing, for example, that no single standardized test can tell the whole story of student academic progress.

Remember NAFTA?  Supporters said this would open new markets for American goods, create jobs, and propel us into a new age of prosperity. It was just “common sense”.  Since its roll out in 1994, NAFTA has crippled our manufacturing capacity, saddled us with continuous trade deficits with Mexico, and consigned the American middle class to compete with Mexican wages.

Gun control, too, is always extolled as “common sense”. Just take away guns and troubled neighborhoods, schools and streets would be safe from violence.  But the most extensive research on the issue indicates this may not be true.

A 2007 Harvard study comparing international gun laws showed that getting rid of firearms might not be the solution to reducing overall violence. In fact, the researchers found that, “…nations with stringent gun controls tend to have much higher murder rates than nations that allow guns.”

Obamacare promised to lower healthcare costs by introducing competition among insurance providers. This “common sense” approach would make healthcare more affordable for everyone. Instead, states are bracing for dramatic premium increases: 72% in Indiana, 125% in Wisconsin, 66% in California. To avoid penalties, employers may have to move more workers to part-time status or stop hiring entirely. Already, 59 out of 100 adults are unemployed in this sluggish economy. “Common sense” Obamacare threatens to sink us deeper into the quagmire.

Now the nation debates whether to launch an attack on Syria as punishment for chemical weapons attacks on its own people. The White House has been coy about producing compelling, irrefutable evidence that demands a U.S. military response. Instead, it asserts a “common-sense” test that merely suggests that the Syrian government carried out the attacks.

Resorting to a “common sense” approach has become the new norm in political discourse. It is lazy.  It is dishonest.  It is fraught with disastrous consequences.