Tag: Bureaucracy

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In about a month, I will be unable to board a commercial aircraft or enter a federal facility (except to obtain entitlement benefits). Why? Because my Pennsylvania driver’s license is not in compliance with the federal Real ID Act. The latter is an(other) expensive, unfunded mandate foisted on the states by our overlords in Washington. […]

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The Environmental Permit Menace


Government Red TapeThere is wide bipartisan support to take immediate steps at all levels of government to improve America’s aging and dilapidated infrastructure. The challenge of infrastructure design is to move people and goods rapidly and efficiently from one place to another, while minimizing adverse environmental impacts.

Private firms can, of course, do a great deal of the legwork in putting this infrastructure together. But private enterprise cannot do the job alone. Long and skinny infrastructure elements, like railroads, highways, and pipelines, typically require the use of the government power of eminent domain to assemble the needed parcels of land. In addition, much infrastructure has to be built across government-owned land. The cooperation of government is thus needed for the completion of these projects. And there is always the risk that any major construction project could cause serious physical damage to the larger environment.

There is a need, therefore, to balance environmental protection with efficient and cost-effective infrastructure development. But it is at this critical juncture that the environmental movement has run off the rails. The passage of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) in 1969 signaled the dawn of a new era in environmental law—the age of non-stop permit-process. NEPA itself contains no substantive requirements intended to enhance overall environmental protection; but it does introduce an elaborate system of “permitting” that must be satisfied before any particular project can proceed.

It Induces Regurgitation


New members may not know me, but once upon a time I was posting twice a week, maybe more. Why have I cut back? Well, I’ve pretty much run out of new things to say. Increasingly my reaction to the news is to want to quote my own posts from a month ago, or a year ago, or two. And that’s just bad form.

But in view of the FBI’s release of their Hillary interview notes — and the revelation that an agency with a reputation for incorruptibility has been utterly politicized — I just can’t help myself. I refer you to this post from August 2015, as the Republican presidential nomination contest was just beginning:

FBI Failures Should Be A Bipartisan Scandal


Keystone Office, Reporting

Omar Mateen, the Orlando shooter, was under FBI investigation twice in 2013 and 2014. So you’d think the FBI’s ears would have perked up when a member of his own mosque reported suspicions that Mateen was planning an attack. And when Disney reported that they believed he was casing their park for an attack, it’s reasonable to expect that the FBI would have had sufficient leads to  stop him, if they had only connected the dots. Ditto when a gun shop owner reported his attempt to buy body armor and bulk ammo. If the FBI had followed up, they probably would have learned some interesting things from the whistleblower at the security firm where Mateen worked.

Worried about Income Inequality? Get Government Out of the Way.


bureaucracyRent-seeking comes in many shapes and forms. From “Make elites compete: Why the 1% earn so much and what to do about it” by Jonathan Rothwell at Brookings:

For lawyers, doctors, and dentists— three of the most over-represented occupations in the top 1%—state-level lobbying from professional associations has blocked efforts to expand the supply of qualified workers who could do many of the “professional” job tasks for less pay. Here are three illustrations:

— The most common legal functions—including document preparation—could be performed by licensed legal technicians rather than lawyers, as the Washington State Supreme Court decided in 2012. These workers could perform most lawyer-like tasks for roughly half the cost. Unsurprisingly, legal groups opposed it. A few brave souls from the Washington State Bar Association board resigned in protest, and issued this statement:  “The Washington State Bar Association has a long record of opposing efforts that threaten to undermine its monopoly on the delivery of legal services.” Proportion of lawyers in the top 1%? 15%.

Cartels and Concierge Bureaucracy Management


Several years ago I heard an amusing story on NPR’s Planet Money program. The story described an Indian entrepreneur who, frustrated with India’s local political corruption and red tape, started a new business: Concierge Bribery. For a fee, he would seek out and pay off all of the sundry local officials whenever a local business needed something done. I thought how lucky we were that America had not yet descended to that level. I was deeply wrong. We, in fact, have had concierge bureaucracy managers for some time.

While it is generally a good maxim to never ascribe to mendacity that which can be explained by incompetence, normal logic seems rarely to apply to any of the corruption and rot stemming from Obamacare (and for the record, I refuse to call it “The Affordable Care Act”, or ACA). The act seems explicitly designed, among other things, as a tool to force a cartelization of the entire medical industry. We see this in the rapid demise of independent practices, as they close up shop and merge into large provider networks — effectively regional medical cartels. What we are not yet seeing, or rather noticing, on any scale is the very similar effect Obamacare (when coupled with the many other business strictures in place) is having on general employment itself.

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My son was registering to take a driving road test. It was almost impossible to see the available dates. Once he registered for the test, it was impossible to change his registration without losing his registration. The first available date was months away. My son wanted to know why it was so absurdly difficult to register.  […]

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The Personal Cost of Regulation


shutterstock_247868038We hear occasionally about the tremendous burden government regulations place on the economy. According to FreedomWorks, the petty tyrants of the alphabet agencies place well over $1 trillion per year of added expense on the nation.

This is important, but it misses how that money is not merely one giant glob of currency ripped from the economy. Each dollar stands alone as money pulled from an individual’s pocket, as food never laid upon a table, as a vacation never taken, and as a Christmas present that will never sit beneath a tree.

It’s easy to see why regulators want to regulate. As Kevin Williamson wrote in 2010:

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In 1949, Wollman Rink was opened in the south end of New York’s Central park. For decades, it was a popular skating rink in the winter and a venue for outdoor concerts in the summer. By the 1970s it had fallen into disrepair and was closed for renovation in 1980. The renovation was originally scheduled to […]

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Only a fool would expect President Obama or his administration to be honest with the public after his many years in office. But one might hope that the President’s advisers are at least honest among themselves. According to Shane Harris at The Daily Beast, that too is wishful thinking.  Two senior analysts at CENTCOM signed […]

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Remembering 9/11: Our Unaccountable Bureaucracies


Fourteen years ago today, 19 Egyptians and Saudis on expired student visas hijacked airplanes and turned them into weapons. Our government’s response has been to ensure that planes are never again turned into weapons. So we shuffle through long security lines, remove our belts and shoes and hats and coats, and then choose between being photographed nude or getting felt up by government bureaucrats. We can’t bring a bottle of water or shampoo or a pocketknife with us. Our luggage is never truly locked, and government bureaucrats routinely steal from it.

Meanwhile, 14 years later, we still have no idea how many Egyptians and Saudis might be here on expired student visas.

Rejoice!? Things Are Bad


shutterstock_232343860James of England posits that things are going really well. I replied:

Our government is the Leviathan. It is always expanding its reach, limiting our freedoms . This is not, of course, merely a matter of spending. It is a matter of crushing regulations, seizures of all matter of property without even a nod to due process, ridiculous overreach in attempts to make US regulations apply in every corner of the globe, automatically giving coercive and violent power to bureaucracies that do not need them, and cannot be trusted with those powers. It is a matter of blind obedience to stupid rules without any recourse to common sense. In other words: the Right may win elections. But the bureaucracies are winning the country.

But I would go further than this: The Federal Bureaucracy has become hopelessly politicized. When Joe the Plumber’s records were “leaked” seven years ago, it was not done at Obama’s command. It was a voluntary act by a government employee who was genuinely trying to help. More recently, we’ve had the IRS target and destroy political opponents.

Little Church Bests Local Bureaucrats at Supreme Court


ReedChurchSign2In a unanimous decision Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that freedom of speech trumps the whims of local bureaucrats. Reed v. Town of Gilbert also provided a victory for religious expression as the plaintiff represents a small church in the Arizona community.

Clyde Reed is the pastor of Good News Community Church, a small Presbyterian congregation that uses innocuous temporary signs to advertise its weekly service. Since the church doesn’t own a building, it meets in various rented locations around Gilbert, a Phoenix suburb.

Reed ran afoul of ruler-toting compliance officers because the town specifically restricted the size, location, number, and duration of signs promoting “religious events.” Curiously, the Gilbert Sign Code is far more permissive of signs that are deemed ideological, political, or for homeowners’ associations.

Old Order Amish Meet New Order Building Codes in Wisconsin


85805777_133037278301 - Copy (2)I took a late lunch break today and attended a hearing in a packed Eau Claire County circuit court room along with 27 Old Order Amish men and several members of the community. Last year, I felt cases like this — where Amish got into trouble for building homes for themselves without smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, etc. — were a kind of rare religious liberty case. It seemed to be something historic in my sleepy town.

The fact is that this is the 13th Amish family in court, with five new cases that will probably soon be filed. It seemed the case might be kind of ho-hum, but it wasn’t. Circuit Court Judge Kristina Bourget held Amish defendants in contempt of court for failing to comply with the state’s new Uniform Dwelling Code (UDC) building permits. The judge ordered the Sheriff to placard-evict Amos and Vera Borntreger and their four children (including an infant) from their home located in Fairchild, Wisc.

The judge’s decision means that in the next few days the Sheriff must put the Borntregers out of their home, post a placard, and padlock the doors. Like many other Amish, the family is charged with two UDC violations: “Fail to obtain building permit” and “No sanitary permit.” Not only will they be homeless, they are being fined $42,700 — a bankrupting sum for family farmers of modest means. (Last year, the fines of several Amish families totaled $309,500.)

Pro-Choice Republicans and the Art of War


Frontal assaults rarely succeed in war, and they are even less likely to be successful in politics and policy. Defense is easier than offense, and troops rarely have the stomach for the kind of sustained attack (and all the casualties) required to have a chance of victory against an entrenched enemy. Hard-won campaigns can often end up as losses.

Republicans did not campaign on a coherent platform, nor do they have the fortitude or unity for a frontal assault. We should not castigate them for it! In the history of the welfare state, full-frontal assaults on entrenched bureaucracies have, with almost no exceptions, always failed.

Government Solutions: ‘Redesigning the Tray’


19kdtn-lunches-blog480When America’s (least) favorite busybody decided to mess with school lunch programs, the result was predictable. Kids have been opting out in record numbers, with more than 1 million school children no longer buying school lunches since new standards went into effect.

The new standards were typical government coercion, providing more federal money to schools that complied with the new rules. Compliance, however, let to weird food combinations, more food being thrown away, and the “Hunger-Free Kids” Act turns out to be just another Orwellian-named government program, which actually leaves kids hungry.

What will satisfy a sedentary teenager won’t do it for a football player. Active kids will need more calories, more healthy fats, and more energy. Calorie-cutting food options simply won’t work for everyone. Athletes aside, some kids don’t need to be on low-fat anything; they burn food up like crazy. Others may struggle with weight. Government is (once again) quick to forget that individuals have different needs depending upon lifestyle, metabolism, genetics, and more. We’re not robots; we’re people. And as a result, we are all different.

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I’d like to see the next president attack head-on the vexing and unconstitutional trend toward rule by administration. The fastest (and most terrifying) way to cure Congress forever of delegating its authority to the bureaucracy would be by giving them what they ask for good and hard. I’d like to see the next president take […]

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