Grassroot Perspective: Regulation-A-Go-Go, Youthful Apathy, and More

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Scanning the week’s national news, views and clues with you and yours in mind

By Malia Hill


Quote of the Week:
“I never vote for anyone. I always vote against.”—W.C. Fields

Each week, we’ll be monitoring the web to find the most interesting, challenging, or important items for those who are concerned about liberty, accountability, and big government.  Here are some of the highlights from the past week:

The Hidden Prices of Regulation

Election years have a funny effect on sitting administrations.  Especially those that love their executive regulatory power, like the Obama Administration.  As Merrill Matthews points out in Forbes, the President’s claim to be a less regulation-heavy administration than previous ones is laughably false.  In fact, between the unknowns of the health care legislation (which grants broad and vague powers—the All-You-Can-Eat Buffet of regulation—to the Secretary of Health & Human Services) and the waiting game on financial reforms, American business is tensing up before the coming storm.  (Which, incidentally, is having a correspondingly chilly effect on loans and economic growth.)  But for sheer political cynicism, nothing can compare to the Environmental Protection Agency, which hit “pause” on its regulatory crusade against refineries just in time for the 2012 elections, pushing back the expected changes—and corresponding rise in gas prices—until after November.  Yes, you may have wanted to place the blame the Middle East or the oil companies, but the next big price rise at the pump is likely to come courtesy Washington, DC and via your own vote.

Regulating Us into Shape

On several previous occasions, I have made it clear that I am a big supporter of the right to stuff my face with fatty, calorie-laden foods without any input from Mayor Bloomberg, the First Lady, or any other well-meaning, over-stepping politician.  This doesn’t make me particularly unusual.  After all, about 2/3 of the population opposes measures like Bloomberg’s large soda ban.  The alarming part of that sentence, however, is the implied fact that there is support for it.  In fact, 24% of the population thinks it’s a good idea.  I wait daily to see Mayor Bloomberg on TV, leading New York in mandatory morning calisthenics.

And that’s only kind of a joke.  As Scott Rasmussen explains, the trend in political philosophy that supports regulating us into fitness is growing in popularity.  While most Americans may prefer the “take responsibility for your own choices” approach, there are those who really see the “war” on obesity as a public good and have no problem literally taking candy from babies.  In essence, this is just another off-shoot of a serious political question, and one with enormous consequences for the size of our government (and our tax bill): Who, ultimately, is responsible for our health?  The government or ourselves?

Tuning In, Dropping Out (of Voting)

There is nothing new under the sun.  And so, perhaps, we should not be surprised that the cyclical nature of young voter activism has pundits wringing their hands over the younger generation and the future of the country, blah, blah blah.  When Obama was swept into office on (among other things) a wave of youthful enthusiasm, non-profits and Senate offices rushed to set up their Facebook and Twitter accounts, and we heard endlessly about the new wave of political activism.

Now John Zogby is fretting over the growing apathy among young voters and appealing to the League of Women Voters to keep them active and excited about the election.  Because few things are as cool to young people as the League of Women Voters.

Of course, it is possible that young voters have discovered that the President is, indeed, a politician, and that politics involves things like debating budget allocations.  And that perhaps the whole thing isn’t quite the thrilling revolution it seemed four years ago.  In other words, the wheel still turns.  And in 20 years, this era’s “young voters” will be wringing their hands about the growing apathy of the new set of young voters.  It’s one of the cornerstones of our democracy.

The (Dependent) Life of Julia

The Obama folks recently released an advertising campaign/chilling horror story about the “Life of Julia” in order to illustrate how frighteningly dependent on government programs we are conditioning people to become.  Or maybe the goal was to get us to cheer dependency and write a check.  It’s not totally clear.  Fortunately, Emily O’Neill of the Center for Freedom and Prosperity Foundation has released this video examining the Life of Julia and discussing the dangers of government dependency.  You might need to hold someone’s hand for comfort during the Julia parts.

Abolish the Public Sector Unions?

Confrontation with state employee unions is starting to become the leadership test of the modern Chief Executive.  Governor Walker of Wisconsin emerged victorious from his recent trial by fire, and now it seems that Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana is looking to go one better, stating that he believes that public sector unions ought to be abolished.  Though unquestionably a bold stand, Gov. Daniels’ position is one that more and more states might find themselves headed toward as they struggle with enormous liabilities and lopsided contracts.  As Robert Romano explains, often the public employee unions function as a fourth branch of government, albeit an unelected one that primarily affects the taxpayers.  Of course, the real solution is to bring benefits for public employees close to those of the private sector.  But perhaps Gov. Daniels is right—perhaps it is necessary to abolish the public sector unions in order to accomplish that.

Views expressed in this column are intended to promote creative thought, educate, and, we hope, prompt comment. Accordingly, thoughts expressed do not necessarily reflect the official position of Grassroot Institute of Hawaii or the author.

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