American Elephants

Costly Regulations Are Made by Unaccountable Bureaucrats by The Elephant's Child
April 20, 2011, 6:51 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Law, Taxes | Tags: , ,

“Every year we are reminded how much money the government filches from us on Tax Day. However, there is no equivalent “Regulation Day” to remind us of the extra cost government imposes on us through pettifogging regulation.  The fact is that federal regulations (never mind state and local) cost even more than the skyrocketing federal budget deficit, and help bring the federal government’s share of the economy to over 35 percent.”  An important observation from Iain Murray, a vice president at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Regulations cost $1,75 trillion in compliance costs, according to the Small Business Administration. That’s bigger than the record federal budget. Wayne Crews, also at CEI, compiles a guide to federal regulation each year: Ten Thousand Commandments; An Annual Snapshot of the Federal Regulatory State.

Last year, Congress passed and the president signed into law a comparatively few 217 bills.  But Congress has delegated to unelected bureaucrats in federal agencies considerable lawmaking power. Agencies issued 3,573 final rules.  As there is no “Regulation Day”, there is also no “De-Regulation Day” when the government gets rid of bad, outdated, useless or too expensive regulations.

  • Of the 4,225 rules now in the regulatory pipeline, 224 are “economically significant”—that is they wield at least $100 million in economic impact.
  • Government’s spending level is $3,456 trillion. The regulatory “hidden tax” of $1.75 trillion is 50.7 percent of the level of federal  spending itself.
  • Regulatory costs exceed all 2008 corporate pretax profits of $1,463 trillion.
  • Regulatory costs dwarf corporate income taxes of $157 billion.

It’s a lot easier for members of Congress to shove off the tedious business of rule-making to unelected agencies than to devote their time to proper lawmaking. Even Republican reformers haven’t gone much farther than trying to require Congress to vote on final rules. Rule-making  just isn’t exciting information to take back to the constituents at home. Nobody gets very interested in regulations until they affect your own life. Mr. Crews survey is an important tool for government reform, but unless it has a lot more pictures than I assume it does, it’s probably not going to replace thrillers as bedtime reading.

Congress devises programs which are funded in three ways:  They can raise taxes to pay for new programs, they can borrow money to pay for them (with a promise to pay back that borrowed money, with interest, from taxes collected in the future). The third way is to regulate.  Instead of paying directly, it can require that the private sector or local governments pay.

This has created enormous problems for the states, as government airily decrees that the states shall do certain specific things, but doesn’t supply the money that the tasks entail.  “Unfunded mandates”— a term you’ve probably heard and not paid much attention to.  President Obama was excited to begin requiring states to start developing his desired high-speed rail network.  So far three states have turned down federal funds because the state portion for high-speed rail was just too costly.

More to the point, there is no accountability,  no disclosure and thus no public fuss. You can think of regulation as off-budget taxation.

Real reform may be a lot harder than we imagined, and a lot more important.

EEEWWW!! Total Gross-Out!!! by The Elephant's Child
April 20, 2011, 4:49 pm
Filed under: Environment | Tags: , ,

By 2030, the global population is expected to reach 8 billion people.  Meat consumption, worldwide,  is increasing at the same time we are putting more food into our gas tanks. Scientific advances have allowed us to increase crop yields dramatically through modification of seeds to subdue weeds, adapt better to different kinds of soil; yet this progress has met with horror from the environmental crowd,  Frankenfood!!! they cry, ignoring the natural modification of plants that goes on all the time.

Environmentalists are concerned about using valuable agricultural resources to feed cattle and hogs — which contaminates drinking water, generates greenhouse gases and accelerates rainforest deforestation.

“Insect protein is not only nutritious, it’s also particularly environmental.” says artist Angela Palmer who invited a distinguished number of guests to a banquet of salted worms, fat bottomed ants, dried and salted mealworms or deep-fried crickets.  Yep, they want us to eat insects.

This “Grand Banquet of Rainforest Insects” was held on a sunny Sunday in Spring at a long table on the front lawn of the Museum of Natural History at Oxford. British celebrity chef Tommasina Miers presided and the intent was to garner support for protection of the rainforest.

For more pictures, an extended tour of the banquet, read the whole thing.  If you want to pass on this one, I don’t blame you.

Obama Wants Out of This Comedy of Errors. Dump it Quick! by The Elephant's Child
April 20, 2011, 7:52 am
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Progressivism, Statism | Tags: , ,

Nissan Motor Company says it is conducting a service campaign on 5,300 Nissan Leaf electric cars in the North American, Japanese and European markets to fix a potential software flaw that could keep the vehicles from restarting after they have been turned off.

Nissan says a “very small proportion” of Leaf owners have reported restarting problems that have required technicians to reprogram the cars’ vehicle control modules to fix what Nissan calls incorrect diagnosis programming. Nice euphemism.

The company has chosen to conduct a service campaign, which is not as big a deal as a “recall”, because the problem isn’t a safety threat. The vehicles will not stop while they are being driven, but may fail to restart after they have been shut down.

ObamaMotors’ Volt or its charging station caused a fire last week that destroyed a garage in Barkhamsted, Connecticut.  Fortunately the house was not destroyed, but only the garage and a second vehicle, a Suzuki Samurai that the Volt’s owner had converted to electric power, according to fire officials.  Engineers from GM and insurance reps were surprised on Monday when the unplugged hybrid vehicle began smoldering, four days after the previous fire. 

So the Volt runs out of power after 50 miles, catches fire, and nearly burns down your house, then does it again.

So the administration is getting anxious to sell its GM stake as the share price declines.  To break even on the taxpayer investment, the US Treasury would have to sell its remaining stake — about 500 million shares — at $53 apiece.  GM closed off 27¢ a share at $29.97 on Monday on the New York Stock Exchange. The Treasury cannot sell more shares until after May 22.

The rise in gas prices has affected the stock price, and shuffles among top management are worrying. GM has had four CEOs since early 2009, and a new chief financial officer took over this month.  Volts erupting in flames don’t help either.

The government is willing to take a loss on its investment (of taxpayer funds) in GM because the Obama administration wants to end its involvement with the automaker ahead of the 2012 U.S. elections.

You can do the math.

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