At over 1,000 and counting, waivers granted to state and local governments, unions, and private businesses to opt out of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (otherwise known as Obamacare) continue to grow. To find the complete list of who has been granted a waiver so far requires drilling down multiple levels at Health & Human Services (gee, it’s almost like they don’t want you to find it), but start there and then try and find the link to the Center for Consumer Information & Insurance Oversight, then … actually, never mind—just google it. (As a matter of fact, the only list still displayed is an old one; it seems as though the “transparency” is gone.)
Three pressing questions worth considering (but I’m not addressing here) are:
More seriously, it raises questions about whether we live under a government of laws. Congress can pass statutes that apply to some businesses and not others, but once a law has passed — and therefore is binding — how can the executive branch relieve some Americans of their obligation to obey it?…
Indeed, can even a small corporation get a waiver? Small businesses provide most new jobs, but the answer is obvious: Waivers are mostly, if not entirely, for politically significant businesses and unions that get the special attention of HHS or the White House. The rest of us must obey the laws.
Of course, the biggest practical question of all for businesses is who at HHS gets to decide who receives a waiver or not, and what criteria (if any) are they using to determine waiver status?
But, just so you know this isn’t something new, let’s take a look at the Great Toy Crisis of 2007. That was the year Mattel voluntarily issued recalls for over 19 million toys made in China because of concerns over lead paint and small magnets that could be swallowed. Congress immediately decided this, too, was a crisis that shouldn’t go to waste and called for legislation to (further) “protect” the consumer, even though there were no deaths reported from lead poisoning and only one death reported from swallowing magnets (and that was in 2005).
So 2008 saw the passage of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), whose goal was:
To establish consumer product safety standards and other safety requirements for children’s products …
One of the more onerous provisions of this new act was the mandating of independent third-party testing on all toys and children’s products (clothes, books, etc.) made for those 12 and younger. Small U.S. toy manufacturers were hit especially hard. They asked why their products, typically made of wood and natural material, should have to undergo expensive outside testing when lead was never a part of their manufacturing process. Small toymakers and toy shop owners banded together and formed the Handmade Toy Alliance to bring their concerns before Congress. In congressional testimony given in 2009, they reported that third-party labs were charging from $150 for testing simple wood blocks up to $4,000 for a wooden rattle—costs small manufacturers just could not afford.
Another unintended (aren’t they always?) consequence of this legislation was (and is) complete confusion in the second-hand resale market, with some bookstore owners removing all children’s books printed before 1985 in order to comply with very confusing and conflicting guidelines from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and some used-clothing vendors removing children’s clothes altogether.
But what does this have to do with government waivers?
Well, Mattel, the toy giant that first triggered the panic by bringing in contaminated toys from China, lobbied hard to get written into the CPSIA language that allows Mattel to oversee its own testing—no expensive independent third-party labs required.
Unlike the Obamacare waivers, Mattel’s exemption is allowed under the law, but the underlying issue remains the same: big government and big business, working together for their common good, or as the Beatles like to say,
I get by with a little help from my friends…
And why were hatters mad? Because in earlier centuries, hat makers used mercury to cure pelts used in some hats, and in so doing, inhaled mercury fumes. The result? Hatters often suffered mercury poisoning that caused neurological damage, damage that included confused speech, distorted vision, and lack of coordination.
Now the federal government has mandated that you put mercury in your home in the form of light bulbs (even as they warn you about it in your fish). As John Hinderaker of Power Line writes:
You could say that requiring Americans to remove pretty much all of the light bulbs now in use and replace them with bulbs that people don’t want is the ultimate in nanny statism, except that nannies don’t generally poison the children in their care.
In 2007, Congress passed (and to his eternal shame, Pres. George W. Bush signed) the Energy Independence and Security Act, an energy bill that placed strict efficiency requirements on incandescent bulbs in an attempt to phase them out beginning in 2012 and replace them with more expensive (but supposedly more energy-efficient) bulbs, the most popular being compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs). One side effect of that legislation was the September 2010 closing of General Electric’s last major incandescent factory in this country and the laying off of 200 workers. Most of these jobs will head over to China, where many of the CFLs sold in the U.S. are made.
And what’s so bad about CFLs? The worst thing (among several) is that CFLs contain mercury, and exposure to mercury vapor is dangerous if the bulbs break.
So what happens when your new CFL does break? The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) basically declares your house a hazmat area. (Please, go look for yourself, I’ll wait—check online here at epa.gov/cfl/cflcleanup.pdf)
Did you read the list? Before you can even start cleaning up, you’re supposed to do the following:
Who wants to bet that many people won’t follow these guidelines, and that 10 or 15 years from now, we will hear from the environmentalists that our ground water and landfills are replete with mercury and will require massive amounts of government funds to clean up?
Already, hospitals warn that CFL bulbs can cause migraines and epilepsy attacks. Others point out that CFLs don’t work well in colder temperatures and Americans will then be forced to use more heat (thus negating any gains in energy efficiency). CFLs don’t work well with dimmer switches, can take up to several minutes to reach full brightness, and the lifespan of the bulb diminishes when it’s turned on and off frequently.
But all that “don’t make no never mind,” because beginning January 2012, 100-watt bulbs will be declared unacceptable to the federal government and therefore no longer available to you. (The state of California, just to show it’s in the forefront of foolish ideas, upped their date to January 2011, so as of now, no more 100-watt incandescent bulbs for sale there.) This diminution of choice will completely disappear in January 2014, when the last remaining wattage, 40-watt bulbs, will be declared enemies of the environment and removed from store shelves. Then you can start worrying about your deadly mercury bulbs … if you haven’t already.
Am I stockpiling incandescents?
Why, yes. Yes, I am.
(And check out this as well.)