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Posts Tagged ‘government stupidity’

There are very serious ways to save huge amounts of money from the defense budget, largely by making smarter choices about defining America’s national security.

This obviously involves high-profile decisions about whether it is smart to engage in nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan. But it also involves what seem to be “gimme” choices about whether we should be spending tens of billions of dollars to maintain troops in places such as Germany, the United Kingdom, South Korea, and Japan.

And, sometimes, it’s just the simple fact that bureaucracies like to squander money. Here’s a $600,000 boondoggle that barely rises to the level of a rounding error in the Defense Department’s budget, but it is a nauseating example of how government wastes our money in genuinely spectacular ways. Every time some politician says we need to raise taxes, you should think of this piece of you-know-what and  say #*&@;^ No!

Here are the key passages from a U.S. News and World Report story.

A $600,000 frog sculpture that lights up, gurgles “sounds of nature” and carries a 10-foot fairy girl on its back could soon be greeting Defense Department employees who plan to start working at the $700 million Mark Center in Alexandria, Va. this fall. That is unless a new controversy over the price tag of the public art doesn’t torpedo the idea.

Decried as wasteful spending that will be seen by just a couple thousand of daily workers who arrive on bus shuttles, foes have tried to delay the decision, expected tomorrow, April 1. But in an E-mail, an Army Corps of Engineers official said that the decision can’t be held up because it would impact completion of the huge project.

…The Mark Center is one of the facilities that thousands of defense workers will be reporting to as part of the Base Realignment and Closure plan, or BRAC, that is shifting workers around Virginia and Maryland. The BRAC plan itself has been criticized as wasteful.

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I’m an over-protective parent. Even now, with my kids ranging between 18 and 23, I will try to herd them together while skiing so I can follow them down the slopes and watch for potential injuries. And I never got them a jungle gym when they were young, even though I somehow managed to survive childhood with one in my backyard.

But at least I recognize what I’m doing. And I certainly would never consider imposing my mother-hen impulses on the overall population.

I’m not surprised to discover, however, that bureaucrats in New York wanted to go way overboard with regulations to ban just about anything with even tiny risks of injury. This list included things such as archery and rock climbing, which might cause me to fret, but also things such as (I’m not joking) kickball and tag.

With those standards, you may as well require kids to be enclosed in bubble wrap every morning.

The only good news is that people found out about the state’s regulatory overreach and the government was forced to cancel the rules after widespread mockery.

Here are some excerpts from a story by NBC in New York.

Day camp games like tag, wiffle ball, Red Rover and kickball are no longer at risk in New York after state health officials yanked a proposal that threatened the future of those mainstays of child’s play.

Towns, villages and other camp operators had begun revamping upcoming indoor summer programs after the Department of Health sent out a long list of familiar games and activities it said presented a “significant risk of injury” and needed to be regulated more closely.

…On Tuesday, Richie, a Republican whose district includes three mostly rural north-central New York counties, said she was pleased by the reversal.

“At a time when our nation’s No. 1 health concern is childhood obesity, I am very happy to see that someone in state government saw we should not be adding new burdensome regulations by classifying tag, Red Rover and Wiffle Ball as dangerous activities,” she said. “I am glad New York’s children can continue to steal the bacon and play flag football and enjoy other traditional rites of summer.”

The proposal would have revised the definition of a summer day camp to include potentially risky organized indoor group activities like archery and rock climbing — as well as things like kickball, tag and Wiffle Ball.

Ritchie said that would have required camps in many smaller towns and villages to add staff such as nurses and pay $200 for a state permit. Other critics argued the regulation was a hysterical approach that stood to take all the fun out of summer.

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The greed of the political class is boundless. They have figured out how to tax just about everything, including a tax on tanning salons to finance Obamacare.

But for sheer ingenuity (in the philosophically perverted sense), I must tip my proverbial hat to the politicians who want to tax toilet paper. Here’s a blurb from the Omaha newspaper.

Mayor Jim Suttle went to Washington Tuesday flush with ideas for how federal officials could help cities like Omaha pay for multibillion-dollar sewer projects. Among the items on his brainstorming list: a proposal for a 10-cent federal tax on every roll of toilet paper you buy. Based on the four-pack price for Charmin double rolls Tuesday at a midtown Hy-Vee, such a tax would add more than 10 percent to the per-roll price, pushing it over a buck. The idea came from a failed 2009 House measure by an Oregon congressman to help cities and the environment. “I heard about it and said, ‘Well, this is simple. Let’s put it on the table,’” said Suttle.

I’m not overly clever with puns, but how about:

Won’t the a@@holes in Washington leave our a@@holes alone?

We really mean it when we say politicians are doing a @hitty job?

Cleaning up after politicians dump on us?

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Sam Kazman of the Competitive Enterprise Institute has a withering critique of dumb government policies that have taken away our freedom to buy low-cost and effective washing machines and instead forced us to buy expensive machines that don’t do a good job of cleaning our clothes.

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that politicians are undermining our quality of life. These are the same jackasses, after all, that are in the process of requiring us to use crummy light bulbs. And they’ve already coerced us into ridiculous “low-flow” toilets that don’t work very well if you happen to…um…deposit something that reminds you of Washington.

Here’s an excerpt from Sam’s column, but read the whole piece since he also discusses how the Senate wants to make a bad situation even worse, and he also reveals how corrupt big businesses favor these mandates so they can eliminate low-cost options.

…for decades the top-loading laundry machine was the most affordable and dependable. Now it’s ruined—and Americans have politics to thank.

…The culprit is the federal government’s obsession with energy efficiency. Efficiency standards for washing machines aren’t as well-known as those for light bulbs, which will effectively prohibit 100-watt incandescent bulbs next year. Nor are they the butt of jokes as low-flow toilets are. But in their quiet destruction of a highly affordable, perfectly satisfactory appliance, washer standards demonstrate the harmfulness of the ever-growing body of efficiency mandates.

The federal government first issued energy standards for washers in the early 1990s. When the Department of Energy ratcheted them up a decade later, it was the beginning of the end for top-loaders.

…Front-loaders meet federal standards more easily than top-loaders. Because they don’t fully immerse their laundry loads, they use less hot water and therefore less energy. But, as Americans are increasingly learning, front-loaders are expensive, often have mold problems, and don’t let you toss in a wayward sock after they’ve started.

When the Department of Energy began raising the standard, it promised that “consumers will have the same range of clothes washers as they have today,” and cleaning ability wouldn’t be changed. That’s not how it turned out.

…even though these newer types of washers cost about twice as much as conventional top-loaders, overall they didn’t clean as well as the 1996 models.

…We know that politics can be dirty. Who’d have guessed how literal a truth this is?

Hat tip to Advice Goddess.

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Regular readers of this blog already know (see here, here, and here) that I’m not a big fan of the new “CFL” light bulbs that we will be forced to use in a couple of years.

In a more entertaining fashion, here’s a video from a few years ago, featuring a Republican Congressman railing against the new bulbs.

Repealing the idiotic mandate for these inferior bulbs should be a gimme for the new Republican majority. Somehow, though, I predict they’ll screw up and leave the requirement in place.

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Since I believe in federalism and decentralization, I tend to be somewhat tolerant of stupid decisions by local governments – particularly when those choices are made thousands of miles away and I don’t have to deal with the consequences.

With this in mind, I find it rather amusing that San Francisco is now plagued by sewer smells as a result of mandates for low-flow toilets. The article doesn’t explain what rules the city imposed, but I assume they are even worse than the federal rules (if you want a good laugh about the federal law, this Dave Barry column is worth reading).

Reading the excerpt below, part of me hopes for a dry summer and that the city’s politicians all live near AT&T Park.

San Francisco’s big push for low-flow toilets has turned into a multimillion-dollar plumbing stink. Skimping on toilet water has resulted in more sludge backing up inside the sewer pipes, said Tyrone Jue, spokesman for the city Public Utilities Commission. That has created a rotten-egg stench near AT&T Park and elsewhere, especially during the dry summer months. The city has already spent $100 million over the past five years to upgrade its sewer system and sewage plants, in part to combat the odor problem. Now officials are stocking up on a $14 million, three-year supply of highly concentrated sodium hypochlorite – better known as bleach – to act as an odor eater and to disinfect the city’s treated water before it’s dumped into the bay. It will also be used to sanitize drinking water.

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My New Year’s Resolution was to stop making fun of the Transportation Security Administration. Not because I changed my mind about the bureaucracy and its level of (in)competence, but rather because I felt as if I was taking candy from a baby. Kicking the TSA is just too easy.

But I can’t resist low-hanging fruit. I recently mocked the TSA for repeatedly failing to catch an undercover agent who carried a gun through the porno-scan machines.

Now it’s time to abuse the bureaucrats for another world-class blunder. A man recently got on a flight with three of the weapons that were used to hijack planes on 9-11. According to the New York Post.

A passenger managed to waltz past JFK’s ramped-up security gantlet with three boxcutters in his carry-on luggage — easily boarding an international flight while carrying the weapon of choice of the 9/11 hijackers, sources told The Post yesterday. The stunning breach grounded the flight for three hours Saturday night and drew fury from Port Authority cops, who accused the Transportation Security Administration of being asleep on the job. “In case anyone has forgotten, the TSA was created because of a couple boxcutter incidents,” said one PAPD source, referring to the weapons used by al Qaeda operatives to commandeer the jets they later slammed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11.

In an unusual display of honesty, a TSA bureaucrat basically admitted that passengers were not in danger because of other factors. Which raises an obvious question of why we maintain an expensive bureaucracy that has no impact other than to inconvenience the traveling public?

The TSA spokeswoman Davis insisted that the traveling public was not at risk. “There have been a number of additional security layers that have been implemented on aircraft that would prevent someone from causing harm with boxcutters,” she insisted. “They include the possible presence of armed federal air marshals, hardened cockpit doors, flight crews trained in self-defense and a more vigilant traveling public who have demonstrated a willingness to intervene.”

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