American Elephants

Unnecessary Regulation May Devastate the Economy and Your Budget. by The Elephant's Child

Republicans complain about “Big Government” all the time, but I’m not sure that the threat is well understood. We need a government because anarchy is not good. In this country we have assigned certain tasks to government. Making and enforcing a basic framework of laws is necessary to make the country function and become livable. We are a nation of laws.

It is not enough for government to do those certain assigned tasks, they always want to do more. Way more. You might think they would proudly do their assigned functions extremely efficiently, and so well that the citizens would rise up and applaud. Well, no.

Some governments have constitutions that explain what the people are allowed to do but the government can do whatever they darn please, and they do. The government of the European Union isn’t exactly elected as we understand the word, and they don’t really have to report to anyone. So they have gotten all silly about the shape that bananas must have, and requiring farmers to write the hen’s name and address on the eggs they sell, and not paid very much attention to what should be their primary function — efficiently managing the government’s money, and the relations between the states.

Perhaps those folks we elect, and we really have to start looking closely at their qualifications, don’t really understand the process of making laws. The two houses of Congress are inclined to make a big general law of thousands of pages that nobody reads, but here’s the troublesome part. They assign the particulars, figuring out the nasty details and how much it will cost and  how much it will interfere in the lives of the citizens who elected them, to an agency. The government is swarming with agencies, offices, bureaus and whatnot, and the first thing you know there are ten different agencies all doing the same thing, and nobody knows if any of them are doing a good job. And we pay for all the duplication.

Congress does not want to be blamed for regulations. So that’s the part they pass on. But regulation costs — big time. Wayne Crews who investigates regulation for CEI estimates the cost of regulation to the American economy is around $1.8 trillion a year. But the costs come right down to us all at the level of our household budget.

During the first three years of the Obama Administration, 106 new major federal regulations added more than $46 billion a year in new costs for Americans, That is almost four times the number and five times the cost of the major regulations issued by the Bush administration during their first three years. President Obama announced, with the usual fanfare, in January 2011 a new get-tough policy on overregulation. He acknowledged that “rules have gotten out of balance” and “have had a chilling effect on growth and jobs.” He promised a comprehensive review. Thirty-two new major regulations appeared that year, increasing the costs by $10 billion annually along with $6.6 billion in one-time implementation cost.

The White House put a whole slew of regulations on hold during the campaign. There were quite a significant number of things that had to wait until the election was over. No sense letting the public know about things they wouldn’t like. How many new regulations will business have to deal with? Nobody knows. The administration has failed to issue a report, required by law, that would set out Obama’s regulatory agenda — due every April and every October.  Spring and Fall 2012 are still missing.  The reason? There are as many as 4,100 rules in the pipeline, and the administration kept them bottled up for “review” until the president was safely re-elected, because many of them will cost jobs. Couldn’t have that right before the election.

Here’s one example, courtesy of ObamaCare, governing vending machines and restaurants, requiring them to display nutritional information. The regulations were expanded to include grocery stores and virtually all food service chains.  The estimated cost: $1.1 billion with 1.4 million additional paperwork burden hours.

The National Association of Manufacturers has pointed out that new EPA regulations in the pipeline could total up to $1111 billion by govt. estimates and $138 billion by industry estimates. Construction costs could total another $500 billion. Jay Timmons, CEO of the manufacturing group warned of a” devastating ripple effect” that could be felt throughout the economy if federal rules are not relaxed or delayed. Some manufacturers are likely to close their doors for good. Can’t have those Ohio voters finding out about that until after the election.

The Federal Register, published every week day and containing all proposed rules and regulations, most of which govern business activities — the left is very suspicious of business — was 81,000 pages in 2011 alone. Few of these regulations meet the “necessary”criteria, but they can surely have a devastating effect on the economy, and they will raise the cost of everything. Regulations are not free, and not necessarily needed.


In Oregon the Rain Belongs to the State. by The Elephant's Child

The rain is raining all around,  it rains on field and tree.
We love this natural bounty, because the rain is free.

Unless you live in the State of Oregon, where the rain is fairly plentiful. If you live in Oregon and dig a pond on your property without a license, and the pond fills with rainwater — the state owns the rainwater, and if you try to keep it, you can go to jail.

A rural Eagle Point man was sentenced to 30 days in jail for filling what state water managers have called three “illegal reservoirs” on his property. Gary Harrington was also fined $1500 for nine misdemeanor convictions for filling his “reservoirs” with rain and snow runoff that the state says is owned by the Medford Water Commission. He was given two weeks to report to the Jackson County Jail to begin serving his sentence.

Mr. Harrington said he stores the water mainly for fire protection, and has pledged to appeal his convictions. “We live in an extreme wildfire area and here the government is going to open the valves and really waste all the water right now, at the start of peak fire season.

The case revolves around a 1925 state law giving the water commission exclusive rights to all the water in Big Butte Creek, its tributaries and Big Butte Springs — the core of the city’s municipal water supply.

Mr. Harrington counters that he is not diverting water from the creek system, merely capturing rainwater and snowmelt from his 172 acres.

Oregon will allow you to collect water from artificial impervious surfaces (roofs, parking lots ) and feed it directly into rain barrels, and you can keep the fallen rain when it lands on your lawns and gardens.

If that water touches the ground, it is the property of the state of Oregon, and you cannot collect it without a permit. Since Oregon owns it, using it without permission is a form of stealing.

Chicago Shakedown and How Regulation Kills. by The Elephant's Child

Istria Cafe is a small business in Chicago, one of the most over-regulated cities in America. PJTV’s Alexis Garcia interviews the Pribaz brothers, the owners of Istria Cafe, to show you how regulations are destroying businesses and jobs. Would you believe that it is almost impossible to run a business in Chicago without violating rules and regulations, and paying extraordinary fines? From utilities, to health care Alexis Garcia tells you why some businesses might not survive in the down economy.

Businesses, small and large keep telling us, their representatives in Congress and the administration that excessive regulation is a problem. The administration not only doesn’t get it, they deny it absolutely. This is one of those spots where a lack of business experience tells. Someone who has never held a real private sector job cannot understand why “profit” is not something evil that only the greedy pursue.

And they cannot understand the extent to which regulation interferes. For example, Congress may decide that it would be a good thing if the signs in fast food restaurants contain calorie and nutrition information. This has happened. Such a regulation should begin with a study to see if the presence of such information has any effect on customer behavior, results in different choices, or does anything to control obesity. If all those factors are negative, then the regulation is a dumb idea.

Aside from that, the nature of the restaurant makes a difference. Pizza places and Chinese take out places have literally hundreds of ingredients and choices. Often impossible to convey on a sign. Can be done extensively on a menu. The ‘fast’  in fast food comes from people able to quickly scan a large sign and indicate their preference.  Such regulation may accomplish nothing except kill the goose that laid the golden egg.

Governments that believe they are smarter than the people and can make things better with more regulation cause more problems than most lack of regulations could. We do, of course, need basic safety regulations, but it’s easy for regulation to form such a network of good intentions that the regulated business must give up.

Over-Regulated America; A Problem the Left Cannot Recognize. by The Elephant's Child

“Americans love to laugh at ridiculous regulations.” So begins an article from The Economist on “Over-regulated America: The home of laissez-faire is being suffocated by excessive and badly written regulation.” That’s certainly true enough. The big story on the radio and on the internet was the saga of a 4-year-old’s pre-school lunch packed by her mother, and the arrival of the regulator who took away her lunch and gave the child three chicken nuggets and some veggies she wouldn’t eat.

The food-police bit is getting out of control. Yes, some parents may send their kids to school with Cheetos, but that is the business of the parent, not the government.  Michelle Obama recently visited Little Rock Air Force Base to announced  a new Pentagon obesity nutritional awareness campaign that will change nutrition standards across the services for the first time in 20 years.  She wants them to eat their veggies. (You’ll notice this is a British paper).  Actually, they should probably increase the protein in their diet instead, and add a few more miles to the daily run.

Mrs. Obama cited an Army study that says more than one-quarter of 17-24 year-olds are too overweight to serve in the military. [Doesn’t that say that she’s changing the nutrition of the military people who are NOT too overweight or they wouldn’t be in the service?]

The Economist picks up on some of the funnier regulations like the Railroad Administration insisting that trains have a “F” on the front so you can tell which end is which, and the children’s lemonade stands shut down because they hadn’t the proper licenses. But this is making light of a serious problem. The article is more concerned with Dodd-Frank, and the disaster of badly written regulations and over-regulation.

The Small Business Association and the Chamber of Commerce have been vocal about the extent to which small business, the engine of job growth, is being seriously harmed by excessive regulation, and the threat of regulation yet to come. One of the biggest problems is ObamaCare. Regulations are issued, complaints ensue, waivers are granted to some, not to others. Threats of increased taxes, increased regulation create a business climate in which potential employers are unwilling to risk taking on the extra cost of another employee.

There are roughly 330 million people in the United States. Why do Progressives think that they can write regulations to cover every aspect of human life and business — and believe that it will work? Why does Michelle Obama believe that she should direct the diet of 1.45 million troops a day at 1,100 military dining facilities and decide what America’s schoolchildren should eat. Yet the Obamas believed that America’s problems derived from a lack of regulation. Liberty is not a dirty word.

What has made America great is liberty— the freedom to invent and create and grow. To dream and to attempt, to work towards our own goals. The elites have always feared the “common people>”

“The clear lesson of history is that individual liberty, the basic underpinning of American society, requires constant defense against the encroachment of the state.”
Walter Wriston

“Freedom is, to be sure, frightening.  There is no telling what values
someone will choose to hold. Decent and well-meaning
guardians of values were horrified by the monstrous principles
of the Declaration of Independence.
It is, of course, out of fear that the guardians preach
the inculcation of values, fear of knowledge and thought.”
Richard Mitchell

DOE Bureaucratic Brilliance On Full Display by The Elephant's Child

This time it’s the Department of Energy.  They issued an “interim final rule” that mandates the test procedures that manufacturers must adopt to measure the minute amount of electricity used by microwave ovens when in “standby mode” and “off mode.”

First they have to define just what is meant by “standby mode” and what the parameters are, and how it is to be distinguished from other modes such as the “off mode,” which also has to be defined.  Theoretically when they are off, there are still the energy-using elements such as the clock (if any), the timer, and the indicator light that may remain lit when the microwave is not in use.

The task of setting energy standards for appliances that are turned off could involve hundreds of hours of testing, let alone all the time it would take to define the meaning of “off”.  According to DOE documents:

The department noted that if the microwave oven is equipped with a manual power on/off switch, which completely cuts off power to the appliance (i.e., removes or interrupts all connections to the main power source, in the same manner as unplugging the appliance), the microwave oven would not be in the “off mode” when the switch is in the “off” position. … But DOE revises its determination … and tentatively concludes that zero energy consumption due to activation of an on/off switch would be indicative of off mode rather than a disconnected mode.

Yes, of course we laugh at regulatory language, partly because it takes itself so seriously, and it’s hard to imagine some faceless bureaucrat in a federal cubicle devising the language that will have to be vetted by the lawyers and by the technology people, and proofread, and signed off on by the entire chain of command. We are paying for all of this, but the amount of taxpayer money is not the problem.

The problem is that we have been asleep, allowing government like some enormous amoeba cancer cell to grow and divide again and again. That is the nature of bureaucracy. The question is how do we stop it— do we establish another bureau to weed out unnecessary laws?  Do we demand that our representatives in Congress establish a committee to clean up the entire federal register? As if that would happen!  Yet the meddling has reached proportions that intrude ever more into our lives and interfere in our choices. The folks at Heritage explain further that:

The DOE contends that energy consumption by microwave ovens in “standby mode” represents a “significant” portion of microwave oven energy use. But a typical U.S. household consumes about 11,000 KWh of electricity per year. Based on testing done by the department, a microwave oven in “standby mode” consumes an average of just 2.65 watts of power. On an annualized basis, that constitutes a mere .006452 KWh of electricity.

Initially, DOE regulators wanted manufacturers to test each microwave oven model over a 12-hour period to capture the amount of power used to display the full range of lighted units. However, representatives of Whirlpool pointed out that every number of lit segments could be measured in just 10 minutes from, say, 3:33 to 3:42, thereby saving manufacturers considerable time and cost for testing.

For all the work that’s gone into devising the energy conservation standard for microwave ovens not in use, DOE officials offer another remedy for our supposed energy profligacy: The department’s Web site advises us to unplug  every appliance when not in use.

correction: “amoeba” just wasn’t strong enough!

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