Thursday, January 04, 2007

The haggle

Many of us have been talking about the need for Democrats to start high before going to the bargaining table. This is not a radical new idea - everyone knows that when you dicker for a good price, you don't start with the "reasonable", "compromise" figure.

But Democrats seem to have lost the idea of haggling. If they want single-payer healthcare, they ask for single-payer healthcare. (Or worse, they do what the Clintons did and try to offer the insurance companies something, which kills the whole idea.) If they want a minimum wage of $7.25, they ask for a minimum wage of $7.25.

This is not, of course, what the Republicans do. They've always got some wingers out there arguing for an extreme position way to the other side. What they would like right now is to avoid raising the minimum wage at all, but sure enough, as Attaturk noted earlier, George F. Will is already out there for them proposing the even more extreme position of eliminating the minimum wage altogether. At this rate, we'll be lucky to get a raise up to $6.00.

As David Sirota points out, the unions were prepared to push for $8.00, but the Dems were afraid that would sound like they were criticizing Democrats for not asking for the higher figure. Can you imagine the right-wing doing this? They've had people out there advocating nuking Iraq just to make Bush seem reasonable, but unions shouldn't be asking for a higher figure than Democratic legislators because it might look like criticism? Yikes!

I want single-payer to pass, but I think single-payer would sound much more reasonable if there were people out there demanding a fully-socialized healthcare program like Britain's NHS (as Nye Bevan designed it, not the anemic thing successive governments have been turning it into). Go all-out: Demand an NHS, and single-payer will sound nice and capitalist and moderate - as it is.

And $8.00 was a good figure as long as the Republicans were just grumbling about raising the minimum wage, or wanting to attach poison pills to it, but once you get George Will out there talking about abolishing it altogether, you need stronger stuff. My suggestion was ten bucks with built-in annual cost-of-living raises, but one of my commenters, Mike, said* that, "The high position on the minimum wage is not automatic cost-of-living increases, it's automatic increases in line with growth in salaries or growth in GDP." (Discuss.)

Really, we need a think tank that does nothing but come up with "unreasonable" demands, to give Democrats in elective office plenty of room to move.