January 16, 2012

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Blake Hurst, a Missouri farmer, writes about federal regulations. He reacts to the claim by David Brooks, and others, that complaints about the burden of the state is just “right wing nuttery.”

… That’s what I’ll tell one of the suppliers for my farm, who runs a very small fertilizer business. He was recently fined around a third of his yearly profit for failing to correctly complete his “Risk Management Plan.” He had hired a consultant, but his consultant neglected to complete the form in the prescribed manner. Even though the form was incomplete, the information he did file filled a three-ring binder three inches thick. The owner of the business has to re-file the plan online. The instruction form for the filing is 110 pages. Timothy Noah subtitled his article “Republicans surpass their own environmental absurdity.” My friend has been operating his business, without incident, for nearly 40 years. Absurd is no doubt how he would describe the new regulatory regime, if he was asked to do so without resorting to four letter words.

Similarly, the Department of Labor has recently released a proposed rule on child labor. The rule would end the learner exemption that allows farm kids to work with animals or operate machinery during their participation in a 4-H or FFA (formerly known as Future Farmers of America) project. The new rule would also prohibit children from working on their grandfather’s farm, or a family farm organized as a corporation.

Tens of thousands of young people in their first two years of high school, the age range covered by the proposed rule, participate in what are called Supervised Agricultural Experiences as part of vocational training. The new rules would end their ability to work with livestock or operate machinery. My project when I was 14 and 15 years old was a couple of steers and 40 acres of corn. I fed the steers, helped to plant and harvest the corn, and kept a set of books for the whole operation. Only the bookkeeping would be allowed under the new rules.

After four years working as a young teenager, I’d saved enough money to pay for my college education. While corn prices today are at record highs, they have not increased as much as tuition has, so that path to a college education may not be available to my granddaughter.

Either way, the point is not ultimately about money. It’s about what constitutes an education. To those of us in flyover country, “learning how to work” is still a crucial part of growing up.

That faith in the value of work, even for kids under 16, is the sort of thing that causes our betters to lose patience with us. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis has said that she refuses to “stand by while youngsters working on farms are robbed of their childhood.” A recent article in the Kansas Law Journal calling for stricter rules on farm labor attacked our old-fashioned beliefs head on: “Even today, many Americans believe in the value of labor intensive work, and that positive work experience can foster individual development, and a sense of responsibility.” Yes, we still believe those things. Even today. …


Mark Steyn has another example of government run amuck.

One of the most disturbing features of the US justice system is its ever more grotesque loss of proportion, at the federal level and in far too many states and municipalities. On his radio show this week, Derb discusses the case of Meredith Graves, the Tennessee nurse who, upon visiting the 9/11 memorial in New York and seeing the signs forbidding firearms, asked the staff if she could check her pistol (lawful and licensed in her home state). She was handcuffed, arrested, and now faces three and a half years in jail for firearms possession – for the crime of being unaware that the Second Amendment does not apply in New York City.

Asked about the case, New York’s thuggish mayor decided to add insult to injury:

“Let’s assume that she didn’t get arrested for carrying a gun. She probably would have gotten arrested for the cocaine that was in her pocket.”

There was no cocaine. The white stuff in her pocket was analyzed by Bloomberg’s cops and found to be, as the nurse had said it was, aspirin powder. So this loathsome slug of a man has slandered an ordinary American citizen on tape in front of the world. Why? Because he can. …

CBS News finds more Obama “green energy investments” that have gone awry.

… It’s been four months since the FBI raided bankrupt Solyndra. It received a half-billion in tax dollars and became a political lightning rod, with Republicans claiming it was a politically motivated investment.

CBS News counted 12 clean energy companies that are having trouble after collectively being approved for more than $6.5 billion in federal assistance. Five have filed for bankruptcy: The junk bond-rated Beacon, Evergreen Solar, SpectraWatt, AES’ subsidiary Eastern Energy and Solyndra.

Others are also struggling with potential problems. Nevada Geothermal — a home state project personally endorsed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid –  warns of multiple potential defaults in new SEC filings reviewed by CBS News. It was already having trouble paying the bills when it received $98.5 million in Energy Department loan guarantees.

SunPower landed a deal linked to a $1.2 billion loan guarantee last fall, after a French oil company took it over. On its last financial statement, SunPower owed more than it was worth. …

… Nobody from the Energy Department would agree to an interview. Last November at a hearing on Solyndra, Energy Secretary Steven Chu strongly defended the government’s attempts to bolster America’s clean energy prospects. “In the coming decades, the clean energy sector is expected to grow by hundreds of billions of dollars,” Chu said. “We are in a fierce global race to capture this market.”

Economist Morici says even somebody as smart as Secretary Chu — an award-winning scientist — shouldn’t be playing “venture capitalist” with tax dollars. “Tasking a Nobel Prize mathematician to make investments for the U.S. government is like asking the manager of the New York Yankees to be general in charge of America’s troops in Afghanistan,” Morici said. “It’s that absurd.”


David Harsanyi in Newt’s creative destruction.

Yes, it’s true that unlike some Republicans, Democrats don’t “enjoy firing people.” They enjoy “investing” your money in exploding electric vehicles, bullet trains and other highly unprofitable but morally satisfying economic misadventures. Venture socialism is certainly empathetic.

Venture capitalism, on the other hand, happens to be useful.

And until the presidential aspirations of Newt Gingrich were dashed by this starch-shirted RINO, there existed a target-rich environment for conservatives — namely Mitt Romney’s elastic record on policy. Yet for reasons not well-known, Newt and other Republicans have chosen to make Barack Obama’s populist case by attacking Romney’s record at Bain Capital.

To the un-cynical independent voter, it may sound as if some conservatives are buying the fable of “unfettered capitalism” rather than concentrating on unfettered government. Now, Gingrich points out that criticism of a single institution is not an attack on the entire free market. This is true enough. Yet when Newt claims that Romney has operated in a “flawed system” wherein “a handful of rich people … manipulate the lives of thousands of other people and walk off with the money,” he is only a couple of pup tents removed from a Zuccotti Park mob or an Obama stump speech. …


A new bio of Eric Hoffer is reviewed in the Weekly Standard.

Not long ago Thomas Edsall told readers of the New York Times that the 2012 Obama campaign had essentially given up trying to win the support of white working-class voters. The Democrats, explained Edsall, had become a top-and-bottom coalition of highly educated professionals, many of whom work directly or indirectly for government, at one end, and the low-income recipients of government benefits on the other.

What’s missing from that alignment are the producers, people who make things and those who maintain and repair them. The starkness of the division was anticipated 45 years ago in the writings of the San Francisco dockworker Eric Hoffer (1902-1983).

Hoffer, a major intellectual figure for three decades, became famous with his 1951 essay on communism and fascism, The True Believer, which bypassed Marx and Freud to explain totalitarianism. Tom Shactman has brought this extraordinary, but unfortunately forgotten, figure back into the public eye with this new biography. …

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