AMERICA, LAND OF PREPOSTEROUS REGULATIONS AND EXTRAVAGANT SPENDING

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Liberal politicians wake up each morning with another scheme to blow money and pander to some special interest group. Most recently Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) proposed legislation that would make it even easier for government workers to have their student loan debt forgiven. You remember Blumenthal; he is the Senator who lied about serving in Vietnam. That’s okay; he’s a Democrat doing what Democrats do.

In Arkansas the public school employees were horrified when the fruits of their labors came true and had unintended consequences. The strongest supporters of President Obama and his Obamacare socialist takeover of healthcare saw their own health insurance rates rise significantly. Never mind that everybody else was facing higher insurance rates, higher deductibles and higher co-pays, the $300,000 a year superintendents, their vice superintendents and assistant superintendents along with the rest of the government employees had to be helped. Democratic Governor Mike Beebe called a special session of the Arkansas Legislature and diverted over $40 million to help the government workers defray the increased costs of their insurance.

Do you think liberals spend money wisely? Your tax money is spent so NASA can reach out to Muslims. Homeland Security has been very effective in allowed tens of millions of illegal aliens into America so what’s next? Protecting the infrastructure of American cities from the effects of climate change is rising on the agenda of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, according to a top agency official.

“Increasingly, we’ve moved not only from a security focus [but also] to a resiliency focus,” said Caitlin Durkovich, assistant secretary for infrastructure protection at Homeland Security, an agency better known for its ineffective fight to curb terrorist threats. Durkovich spoke on a panel at the Rising Seas Summit, a three-day conference organized by the U.S.-based Association of Climate Change Officers to discuss tools and ideas on building resiliency, particularly against rising sea levels. All these liberals jetting around fighting global warming is working, for the last two decades global temperatures have been decreasing. 

I could fill the encyclopedia about wasteful liberal spending but I also want to highlight major problems our indomitable tax and spenders are not interested in solving.

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There are over 250 million daily crossings on 63,207 bridges in need of structural repair. The liberals only get interested in these bridges after they fail and people are killed. On average, about 10% of the bridges in any given state are deficient. In deep blue states where tax money is spent on government workers’ pensions and dental insurance, the picture is worse. In Pennsylvania about 20% of the bridges are deficient.

Liberals love to employ our military but they hate to fund our military. I hope you already know that the United States Armed Forces has borne the bulk of spending cuts along with our Veterans.

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Our Border Security is a bad joke exploited by EVERY TERRORIST GROUP on the planet. They are here in large numbers and any prudent person would have to conclude that they are very well armed. On my recent cruise to Alaska my passport was checked no fewer than 20 times. Yet, millions of illegal aliens have waltzed across our borders and countless more arrive through our undefended coastlines. A few years ago the Commandant of the Coast Guard told me personally that even if the USCG tripled in size it could not secure our 92,000 miles of coastline. There is only one nation that has thrown its doors open to anybody and everybody, the United States of America.

Even with all of the massive economic problems that the United States is facing, if the government would just get off our backs most of us would do okay. In America today, it is rapidly getting to the point where it is nearly impossible to start or to operate a small business. The federal government, the state governments and local governments are cramming thousands upon thousands of new ridiculous regulations down our throats each year. It would take a full team of lawyers just to even try to stay informed about all of these new regulations.

Small business in the United States is literally being suffocated by red tape. We like to think that we live in “the land of the free”, but the truth is that our lives and our businesses are actually tightly constrained by millions of rules and regulations. Today there is a “license” for just about every business activity. In fact, in some areas of the country today you need a “degree” and multiple “licenses” before you can even submit an application for permission to start certain businesses. And if you want to actually hire some people for your business, the paperwork nightmare gets precipitously worse. It is a wonder that anyone in America is still willing to start a business from scratch and hire employees. The CEO of a company with approximately 10,000 employees once told me the government punishes him for hiring new employees. The truth is that the business environment in the United States is now so incredibly toxic that millions of Americans have simply given up and don’t even try to work within the system anymore.

Today, the U.S. government has an “alphabet agency” for just about everything. The nanny state feels like it has to watch, track and tightly control virtually everything that we do. The Federal Register is the main source of regulations for U.S. government agencies. In 1936, the number of pages in the Federal Register was about 2,600. Today, the Federal Register is over 80,000 pages long. By contrast, the World Book Encyclopedia has 13,800 pages. That is just one example of how bad things have become.

In Hong Kong an entrepreneur can start a business within minutes with one sheet of paper. My barber told me he would have to fill out a 7 page application with an engineering stamp simply to put a sign in his window.

I’m guessing you probable have an idea how bad things have become but will be still be shocked by some examples:

The state of Texas now requires every new computer repair technician to obtain a private investigator’s license. In order to receive a private investigator’s license, an individual must either have a degree in criminal justice or must complete a three year apprenticeship with a licensed private investigator. If you are a computer repair technician who violates this law, or if you are a regular citizen who has a computer repaired by someone not in compliance with the law, you can be fined up to $4,000 and you can be put in jail for a year.

The city of Philadelphia now requires all bloggers to purchase a $300 business privilege license. The city even went after one poor woman who had earned only $11 from her blog over the past two years. William Penn is rolling over in his grave.

The state of Louisiana says that monks must be fully licensed as funeral directors and actually convert their monasteries into licensed funeral homes before they will be allowed to sell their handmade wooden caskets.

In the state of Massachusetts, all children in daycare centers are mandated by state law to brush their teeth after lunch. In fact, the state even provides the fluoride toothpaste for the children. The state does not care whether the children have teeth or not.

If you attempt to give a tour of our nation’s capital without a license, you could be put in prison for 90 days. Yikes, I remember when my Congressman gave me a tour 50 years ago.

Federal agents recently conducted a raid at 5 A.M. in the morning. No, they were not rounding up illegal aliens from Somalia, Yemen, Iran, Syria or Libya; they raided an Amish farm because they were selling “unauthorized” raw milk. I know, you probably think they should be fighting real crime like organized gangs, the mob, illegal drugs, murder, armed robbery, kidnapping and grand theft?

In Lake Elmo, Minnesota farmers can be fined $1,000 and put in jail for 90 days for selling pumpkins or Christmas trees that are grown outside city limits.

A U.S. District Court judge slapped a $500 fine on Massachusetts fisherman Robert J. Eldridge for untangling a giant whale from his nets and setting it free. So what was his crime? Well, according to the court, Eldridge was supposed to call state authorities and wait for them to do it. I’d say he got off easy, in Massachusetts I would expect them to lock him up and throw away the key!

IRS regulations will require U.S. businesses to file millions more 1099s each year. In fact, it is estimated that the average small business will now have to file 200 additional 1099s every single year. Talk about a nightmare of red tape! But don’t try to avoid this rule – it is being reported that the IRS has hired approximately 2,000 new auditors to audit as many of these 1099s as possible. Business is booming at IRS as they also have much more power and responsibility for Obamacare. Polls show that only about 20% of Americans believe the IRS is doing a good job.

The Federal Railroad Administration insists that all trains must be painted with an “F” at the front, so you can tell which end is which. Of course, a fifth grader could tell the administration and save all that paint.

I think we are all familiar with government’s heavy handed crackdown on children’s lemonade stands, but red tape in America is a major reason all business is suffering. Regulations, Unions and Taxes are reasons General Motors cannot survive even with the taxpayer bailout. Today, 70% of GM cars sold in the U.S. are manufactured outside the U.S.

Consider the Dodd-Frank law of 2010. Its aim was noble: to prevent another financial crisis. Its strategy was sensible to improve transparency, stop banks from taking excessive risks, prevent abusive financial practices and end “too big to fail” by authorizing regulators to seize any big, tottering financial firm and wind it down. But Dodd-Frank is far too complex, and becoming more so. At 848 pages, it is 23 times longer than Glass-Steagall, the reform that followed the Wall Street crash of 1929. Worse, every other page demands that regulators fill in further detail. Some of these clarifications are hundreds of pages long. Just one bit, the “Volcker rule”, which aims to curb risky proprietary trading by banks, includes 383 questions that break down into 1,420 sub questions.

Hardly anyone has actually read Dodd-Frank, besides the Chinese government and a few lawyers. Those who have struggled to make sense of it, not least because so much detail has yet to be filled in: of the 400 rules it mandates, only 93 have been finalized. So the result is that financial firms in America must prepare to comply with a law that is partly unintelligible and partly unknowable.

Who are the big losers after the new government regulations of the banking industry were implemented? Consumers like you and me! Instead of being paid interest on deposits in checking accounts, we are now charged fees; fees for this and fees for that. The bankers are not driving Chevrolet Sparks and living in one bedroom apartments. They still have their Country Club memberships and have easy access to politicians.

Dodd-Frank is part of a wider trend. Government keeps adding stacks of rules, few of which are ever rescinded. Government writes rules to thwart terrorists, which makes flying in America an ordeal and prompts legions of brainy migrants to move to Canada instead. Government writes rules to expand the welfare state. Obamacare does nothing to reduce the system’s staggering and increasing complexity. Every hour spent treating a patient in America creates at least 30 minutes of paperwork, and often a whole hour. The number of federally mandated categories of illness and injury for which hospitals may claim reimbursement will rise from 18,000 to 140,000. There are nine codes relating to injuries caused by parrots, and three relating to burns from flaming water-skis.

Government even has a solution for the pesky problem of going out of business. Look around your city and you will likely see an incredible number of vacant business buildings and factories. The city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin makes it incredibly difficult to go out of business. In order to close down a business, Milwaukee requires you to purchase an expensive license, you must submit a huge pile of paperwork to the city regarding the inventory you wish to sell off, and you must pay a fee based on the length of your “going out of business sale” plus a two dollar charge for every $1,000 worth of inventory that you are attempting to sell off. You see, Milwaukee makes money from your misery! And you thought starting a business was difficult!

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is projecting that the food service industry will have to spend an additional 14 million hours every single year just to comply with new federal regulations that mandate that all vending machine operators and chain restaurants must label all products that they sell with a calorie count in a location visible to the consumer.

I think we all know that California has gone off the deep end with ridiculous regulations. For example, dance schools are required to have a police permit, used bookstore owners and those who sell to them must be fingerprinted and books must be held for 30 days before they can be sold, a cyber cafe must provide 20 square feet of floor area per computer. I wonder how much the bureaucrat earns who measures cyber cafes. These are among the examples cited in a new report on the hassles of owning a business in L.A. It’s hardly news that the rules and regulations are way more cumbersome than other cities, but the Institute of Justice, a public law firm, provides a number of examples on just how crazy the system has become.

• Los Angeles imposes draconian restrictions on home-based business and bans many–including dog sitting, sewing garments and cutting hair–outright.

• Would-be restaurateurs in Los Angeles must endure months, if not years, of hardship and spend tens of thousands of dollars navigating the city’s labyrinthine permitting process–a fact that has given rise to a cottage industry of “permit expediters.”

• Tree trimmers, wallpaper hangers, fence builders and numerous other trades must obtain a state-issued “specialty contractor” license, obtainable only after several years experience, a state-administered test and a background check.

• Startup clothing designers on the Los Angeles fashion scene must pass a state-administered examination and pay a hefty sum to obtain a “garment manufacturer’s” license. Yes, only the state knows how gowns should be designed!

• eBay-type drop-off stores are required to fingerprint customers, report daily to the government and hold merchandise for 30 days before offering it for sale.

The mayor’s office had been touting a plan to streamline the permit process, but after two frustrating years the plug was pulled. There was just too much resistance from city department heads and too much complexity in overhauling the system.

America is meant to be the home of the free. Unlike Europeans, whose lives have long been constrained by meddling governments, Americans are supposed to be free to choose, for better or for worse. Yet for some time America has been straying from this ideal.

Two forces make American laws too complex; one is hubris. Many lawmakers seem to believe that they can lay down rules to govern every eventuality. Examples range from the merely annoying such as a proposed code for child care centers in Colorado that specifies how many crayons each box must contain, to the delusional conceit of Dodd-Frank that you can anticipate and ban every nasty trick financiers will dream up in the future. Far from preventing abuses, complexity creates loopholes that the shrewd can abuse with impunity.

The other force that makes American laws complex is lobbying. The government’s drive to micromanage so many activities creates a huge incentive for special interest groups to push for special favors. When a bill is hundreds of pages long, it is not hard for congressmen to slip in clauses that benefit their chums and campaign donors. Obamacare includes tons of favors for the pushy. Congress’ last, failed attempt to regulate greenhouse gases was even worse. To top it off, every organization from auto dealers to veterans trots up to Washington calling for increased funding for this and that. Our debt and unfunded requirements already amounts to over a million dollars per taxpayer.

Complexity costs money. Sarbanes-Oxley, a law aimed at preventing Enron-style frauds, has made it so difficult to list shares on an American stock exchange that firms look elsewhere or stay private. America’s share of initial public offerings fell from 67% when Sarbox passed to 16% now, despite some benign tweaks to the law. A study for the Small Business Administration, a government body, found that regulations in general add $10,585 in costs per employee. It’s a wonder the jobless rate isn’t even higher than it is. I’m talking about real unemployment rates, not bogus government figures.

Can we have a little simplicity? America needs a smarter approach to regulation. First, all important rules should be subjected to cost-benefit analysis by an independent watchdog. The results should be made public before the rule is enacted. All big regulations should also come with sunset clauses, so that they expire after four years unless Congress explicitly re-authorizes them.

It is not asking too much for rules to be much simpler. When regulators try to write an all-purpose instruction manual, the truly important dos and don’ts are lost in an ocean of verbiage. Far better to lay down broad goals and prescribe only what is strictly necessary to achieve them. Legislators should pass simple rules, and leave regulators to enforce them.

Extreme power must be wrenched away from unelected bureaucrats. Simplified regulations must be approved by elected officials who are accountable to the voters while bureaucrats must be subject to dismissal just like the rest of us. The fewer bureaucrats and liberal politicians we have lurking about, the better America works.

If you have examples of outlandish regulations in your state or community, please share them in the comments.

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