The increasing costs of federal meddling with our lives and property

Laws, regulations and rules abound and proliferate from Washington, D. C. burdening our citizens with criminal charges, legal entanglements and fines. In addition, obnoxious and useless bureaucratic programs assault our sensibilities. I’m reminded of this, again, by two articles printed in the Wilmington StarNews Sunday paper, May 3, 2015.

One exemplifies increasingly frequent threats by the U.S. Department of Justice against American businesses; the other a foolish, wasteful program by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to promote “organic” food and animal welfare.

The Associated Press reported criminal charges sought by the DOJ against Lumber liquidators, a Virginia flooring company, related to imported wood products. Apparently, a CBS “60 Minutes” report early in March on alleged “high levels of formaldehyde” in laminate flooring triggered DOJ investigators to target the company. The allegations caused company March sales to drop nearly 13 percent.

Using the U. S. “Lacey Act” that bans wood imports from “endangered” plants, thus, declared illegal, company representatives estimate they may lose $10 million because of DOJ actions. (As I recall this is the same unnecessary legislation that was used to harass and temporarily shut down the revered Gibson Guitar company.)  In addition, scenting green blood in the political waters, legal sharks filed more than 100 class-action pending lawsuits against Lumber Liquidators.

Company officials say they comply with all regulations, including California’s stringent (probably ridiculous) regulations for “formaldehyde emissions.” But mere allegations have damaged the company and its stockholders.

Industry analysts expected an increase of 15 cents per share from this company that earned 49 cents per share last year for its investors. Instead, news-creators and government meddlers caused them to lose 29 cents per share.

Then, there’s the “organic” scam—abetted by the USDA through its National Organic Program. Peter Whoriskey reporting from the Washington Post interviewed the program “chief” (who probably gets heap-big-wampum). Mr. Whoriskey asked four questions and got some typically bureaucratic evasive and vague answers indicating little justification for spending public money:

Q. What’s wrong with conventional farming?

A. “I can’t really respond to that.” Organic sales are “increasing dramatically… just an interest in quality food…certain practices that resonate with consumers and they feel good about it.”

Of course, this has nothing to do with health or safety; it’s about feeling good.

Q. Are consumers correct to think that organic food is healthier and safer?

A.“I’m not going to be able to respond to that…we are a regulatory program that regulates the organic label, to ensure that anything that has that label meets the requirements.” “The question is not relevant to the role of the National Organic Program.”

Yes and this program is not relevant to the proper role of government.

Q. What changes in animal welfare are needed?

A.“The requirements are that you have to care for the health and welfare of the animals. You can’t use allopathic products—like antibiotics and hormones.”

It’s no wonder these foods are more costly to the consumer; modern technology isn’t used to improve “animal welfare” and product quality.

Q.“Why should a U. S. consumer believe that a product from China, Mexico or Columbia is organic?”

A.“It’s the same inspection and certification process in Columbia or China or Mexico as it is in the United States. All the inspectors are accredited by USDA”…farms, packing sheds and distributors are certified. “We do dozens of audits in foreign countries every year.”

Well, there you have it: We’re from the U. S. government and we’re here to help you. If you think “organic” food is worth the extra cost, you can keep your organic food.


About R. E. Smith Jr.

Mr. Smith writes essays and commentary on politics, American history, environment, higher education and culture. He's been published in print media and at blog sites for about 25 years. Smith's formal education includes B.S. and M.S. degrees from the State University of New York and Syracuse University. He has earned a 21-credit hour Certificate in Professional Writing from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Training/work experience: NYS Ranger School; U. S. Army, Corp of Engineers; soil scientist and forester with USDA; Assoc. Professor at SUNY; real estate agent; small business owner.
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