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Fun on Friday: Dumb Politician Edition

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When I was a kid, I thought people in elected offices were among the brightest and best. Then I grew up, started interacting with politicians and realized they are no smarter than anybody else. And in fact,  a lot of them are downright dumb.

Well, I’ve got an Oklahoma lawmaker for you that fits neatly into the downright dumb category.

Oklahoma state Rep. Merleyn Bell, a Democrat from Norman, wants to penalize people who use a successful private sector DUI prevention program to fund an utterly useless government DUI prevention program.

Her proposal would place a 20% surcharge (that’s politi-speak for a tax) on Uber and Lyft rates when the companies are in “surge pricing” mode.

If you’ve ever used a rideshare service on a busy weekend or during a major event, you’ve experienced surge pricing. It’s a rational response to supply and demand. Rates go up during peak times. This incentivizes more drivers to get out on the road and meet the demand. Higher rates mean more money in the drivers’ pockets.

Since Bell is a Democrat and likely economically illiterate, I’m going to go out on a limb and bet she would call surge pricing “unfair.” So, she wants to punish companies for doing it by raising the price even more — to make it more unfair?

Honestly, I don’t know if that’s her motive – but it’s a pretty reasonable assumption, no? Regardless, the stated intent – to raise money and create a new revolving fund operated by the Department of Public Safety for drunk driving prevention programs – is one of the most asinine proposals I’ve read in a long time. And believe me, I read a lot of asinine proposals.

Here’s what will happen in effect. The higher rates will discourage people from using Lyft or Uber during surge pricing times. You know, the times when people are out drinking. Instead, they will drive their own cars. And some of them will undoubtedly drive drunk.

But don’t you worry! Bell has that covered. We’re going to have government run drunk driving prevention programs! I’m sure this will involve public service announcements, slick advertisements and “education” to discourage driving drunk. I mean, that’s a way better plan than, say, I don’t know, providing alternative transportation for drunks so they don’t have to drive, right?

Funny thing: Bell owns a company called Bell Design LLC. It provides “graphic design services and consulting to public and private entities across Oklahoma.” You know, the kind of company that might design a slick anti-drunk driving PR campaign. Now, if I were a cynical person (and I am), I might suggest that she wants to create some work for her company. (And I just did.)

An Oklahoma TV station interviewed Bell and asked about the wisdom of imposing a fee that could scare away ride-sharing companies or deter potential customers from using the services. Her response was brilliant. And by brilliant, I mean ignorant.

I can’t control what a ride share service chooses to do in response. My hope is that they would be willing to become a committed partner in ensuring that more Oklahomans get home safely whether that’s during surge charge pricing or not.”

That’s what is known as word salad. What does it even mean?

Here’s my translation: “I don’t really understand economics, and I don’t really care, because I want to do something, because drunk driving — bad, and it will work because reasons. And screw greedy rideshare companies.”

According to the news report, “Bell, did not address additional concerns that the bill could be seen as a punishment for responsible people trying to avoid drinking and driving, only saying the bill is meant to prevent DUIs.”

By making it more expensive to avoid driving drunk.

Brilliant.

There you have it, ladies and gentlemen! Our brightest and best.

Fun on Friday is a weekly SchiffGold feature. We dig up some of the off-the-wall and off-beat stories relating to precious metals and share them with you – with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Click here to read other posts in this series.

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About The Author

Michael Maharrey is the managing editor of the SchiffGold blog, and the host of the Friday Gold Wrap Podcast and It's Your Dime interview series.
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