It’s Turkey Time, as we all know.
There are turkeys we hunt and turkeys we eat and, unfortunately, turkey regulations that make all our lives more expensive and less productive. Here are the worst turkeys from the regulatory front for 2013:
You Leave When TSA Tells You Can Leave
It’s hard to believe the Transportation Security Administration can annoy, outrage and offend Americans any more than it already has, but believe us, it will. In the Syracuse, N.Y., airport, travelers must leave through pods that give them one last once-over as they depart. Passengers must wait in line to enter, then wait till the light turns green to proceed. “They are meant,” said one flyer, “to remind you that you are a captive” and to “make you feel like a prisoner who cannot leave.”[IO1] [IO2]
Can I Forklift A Menu Over Here For You?
The Affordable Care Act’s Section 4205 requires any restaurant or food service facility with at least 20 locations to post calorie counts on menus. The nudge-squad hopes forcing us to read calorie counts will encourage us to consume fewer. New York City tried it, but two studies found “posting calorie benchmarks had no direct impact, nor did it moderate the impact of calorie labels on food purchases.” In fact, some diners consume more calories when they encounter nutritional information. And it’s not cheap. Domino’s claims the menu rule could cost stores $1,600 to $4,700 annually.
Not Exactly Health Food, But Unsafe?
We all know trans fatty acids are not great for us, but are they dangerous? That’s what the FDA declared Nov. 7 when it removed the “Generally Recognized as Safe” designation from trans fat. Sounds like the logical next step for the food police, but it’s actually worse. In the past, the FDA has banned only items determined to be acutely dangerous to public health. Nobody claims that about trans fats. And if the FDA can do this to trans fats, why not salt? Or sugar? Or any number of other ingredients most Americans use in their cooking?
Court-Ordered Sanity On Bloomberg’s Soda Ban
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s effort to ban sales of sodas of more than 16 fluid ounces is on ice, for now, thanks to being thrown out by two state courts. But he has vowed to push on, and New York City’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, seems no less amenable to nanny statism. Again, it doesn’t work. It does nothing to reduce obesity, and it needlessly infringes on our freedom to drink what we choose.
Circle Of Sugar
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Feedstock Flexibility Program will cost U.S. taxpayers about $280 million this year. Through this program, USDA buys sugar from processors that otherwise would default on their government-backed loans. The processors forfeit the sugar, which had been pledged as collateral, instead of repaying those loans – and they do so at the high price-support level for domestic sugar. USDA then sells the forfeited sugar at sharply discounted prices – up to 90 percent – to ethanol producers.
Govt. Declares Insurance Companies Are “Banks”
Only in the ends-always-justifies-the-means world of Washington would it remotely make sense to declare insurance companies as big a threat to finance as banks. The businesses are entirely different. Insurers don’t hold nearly as much debt and they don’t pose the same risks. Only one insurance company, AIG, was even remotely involved in the 2008 financial crisis, and that division was not involved in life insurance. Why then? Because that’s where the money is. Regulators want to pile in insurance companies with banks so they can help pay when banks go belly up. Next round of bailouts, coming up!… Or We Could Just Not Drink From The Hydrant
In October, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency mandated fireplugs installed after Jan. 4, 2014, must meet stricter standards for lead content, lest people who drink constantly from fire hydrants become overexposed to lead. Of course, people drink from hydrants only occasionally, such as at festivals or during water outages. Cities, taken by surprise, now find themselves with hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of hydrants they can’t install, while they are forced to buy compliant hydrants that aren’t yet even being manufactured. “This delivers a huge cost and probably no health protection,” Tom Curtis of the American Water Works Association told Bloomberg News. “It needs to be rethought.”[IO3]
How Big Dairy Cows Government
Raw milk is not for everyone, although some prefer it, saying pasteurization robs milk of many of its health benefits. But whether raw milk is safe or beneficial or better than pasteurized milk is not, of course, a choice for us. It’s a choice regulators make, and they have decided—with help from Big Dairy—that unpasteurized milk is far too dangerous for consumers. A farmer in Wisconsin even went on trial last spring for selling unpasteurized milk, only to have a court throw out three of the four charges against him. Supporters called the acquittal “a win for food rights.” [IO4]
Big Dairy begged to differ. “We strongly urge lawmakers to keep it illegal to sell raw milk in Wisconsin to protect the state’s $27 billion dairy industry and the public health of its residents,” said one industry group leader.[IO5] So, is raw milk dangerous to our health? Or just an economic threat to the traditional dairy industry?
A Bridge Too Far?
When Obamacare was working its way through Congress, lawmakers looked for ways to incentivize states to establish their own health insurance exchanges. Perhaps the most significant such encouragement was a provision in the law granting subsidies for low-income residents to purchase plans only in those states that set up their own exchanges. Under the Obamacare legislation, the employer mandate – the requirement for employers to provide government-deemed “adequate” coverage or pay an annual $2,000-per-employee penalty—is triggered only when employees applied for subsidies. So in effect, states that did not set up exchanges would have no employer mandate because there are no subsidies to seek.
The IRS devised a “fix” for this, by promulgating a regulation that extended the mandate to states that did not approve exchanges—a clear end-run against the will of Congress. A variety of plaintiffs, including CEI, have taken this to court in Richmond, Va., and the D.C. Circuit. The Richmond court could rule before the holidays; the D.C. court judge has promised a ruling by Feb. 15.
Compiled by Brian McNicoll. Wayne Crews, Michelle Minton, Marc Scribner, Ivan Osorio, Trey Kovacs and Fran Smith contributed.