The old saying, "The single most exciting thing you encounter in government is competence, because it is so rare," has been attributed to former U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. The Senator represented New York state several decades ago. He was one of the few contemporary politicians who actually was in touch with reality and was not shy about pointing out the mass of nonsense constantly generated by the American political class.
Most people talk about insanity, incompetence, bad priorities, and waste at the Federal government level:
- How the Federal political class oversees a government that loses over two hundred billion dollars a year through waste and criminal fraud in its Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security programs.
- How the Federal political class oversees a tax system and IRS that fails to collect over $300 billion a year from tax evaders.
- How the Federal political class allowed at least one government agency to waste over $800,000 on a lavish Las Vegas conference that included activities that made fun and light of how that agency wasted taxpayer wealth.
- How the Federal political class has allowed government spending to run up over $15 TRILLION in national debt without solving any of the major issues facing the country including our failing public schools, our lost war on drugs, our lack of a coherent energy strategy, our crumbling infrastructure, our leaky borders, our escalating health care costs, etc.
There is so much to talk about when it comes to Federal politicians that we sometimes lose track of the fact that our state and local political classes are not much better in performance or in setting realistic and worthwhile priorities in their work schedules.
Remember, most, if not all, local and state governments have faced many crises over the past few years due to declining tax revenues because of the ailing economy. This has resulted in the reductions in social services, cuts to school budgets, layoffs of government employees, and other pressing problems. Keep this in mind as you review the state government political class travesties below and how bad their priorities are.
Three recent cases come to mind:
* If you live in Illinois and have a clogged drain, life has been made very complicated for you, courtesy of the Illinois political class. If you want to unclog your drain with an industrial strength drain cleaner or other "caustic or noxious substance," you have to register your name, your address, the date and time of your purchase, and the type, brand, and net weight of your purchase. This information will be entered into a government registry by the store clerk.
Stores who fail to comply with the regulations could get a fine of $150 for the first offense and up to $1,500 for each subsequent offense. The law has been such a hassle for both customers and stores that a local supermarket chain, Jewel-Osco, has responded to the hassle by no longer selling the affected drain cleaners.
And what was the cause of this explosion in bureaucracy and government intrusion? Bureaucracy that will affect hundreds of stores, thousands of homes, and thousands and thousands of citizens? Apparently, back in 2010, two Chicago women were badly injured by assailants who threw drain cleaner on them.
Now while one can feel badly for the two women, this is a ridiculous reaction to only two incidents. First of all, passing a law like this will not eliminate the potential for this type of incident happening again:
1. Drain cleaning liquid is still available (except at Jewel-Osco) so future assaults could still occur. Law enforcement authorities could never trace who bought the drain cleaner used in a future assault.
2. If this was such a big problem, criminal elements could drive to neighboring states to buy drain cleaners. It does not appear to be a crime to transport drain cleaners across state lines.
3. If a criminal wanted to repeat this type of assault, they could just as easily use household bleach for the same assault affect. It does not appear that bleach is a dangerous substance according to the law, requiring a registry and other such nonsense required of drain cleaner purchasers.
Thus, another stupid law and another set of unintended negative consequences, consequences that make Americans' lives more complicated, add to government bureaucracy, and add to business costs without solving the original problem. There were only two assaults, two assaults that could have been done with any number of other caustic products, two assaults that will affect thousands of other citizens for no reason.
* Our Federal government and many of our state and local governments have been around for over two hundred years. One would have thought they could do some basic functions after these centuries including providing toilet paper in government buildings.
However, Trenton, New Jersey's politicians' ability to execute this basic toilet paper government function has not taken hold yet. Their failure to reach an agreement on what company to award the city's $42,000 toilet paper contract has led to police stations, senior centers, city hall, and other government buildings going weeks without toilet paper.
The state government and its politicians almost had to intercede to resolve the issue. Fortunately, there was at least some temporary relief in the toilet paper issue when the city council rushed through an emergency order to purchase $16,000 worth of toilet paper for the time being. After over two hundred years, our political class cannot even order and deploy adequate toilet paper supplies. Does not make you feel real confident that they will be able to fix any of the real issues facing most Americans today?
* The residents of Ohio do not have it any better when it comes to bad political class priorities. Ohio has also had a rough time with it economically over the past few years but you would not know it if you followed the career of Democratic state senator Nina Turner.
Apparently, the Senator has introduced a bill in the Ohio Senate that would require men to 1) take a cardiac stress test and 2) get a NOTARIZED affidavit from a sexual partner affirming impotency before they can receive a prescription for Viagra. The heck with reduced state tax revenues, the heck with failing schools and sagging school budgets, the heck with a creaky state economy, etc.
Let's get the state government involved in the sexual workings of thousands and thousands of consenting Ohio adults with intrusive paperwork and the excess costs of complying with an idiotic law and priority. You wonder what the thought process was that caused state government staff, resources, and a state senator to put this at the top of their priority lists.
Given these three simple examples of state and local political class insanity and the state of our governments and our lives, Moynihan's quote is so accurate: "The single most exciting thing you encounter in government is competence, because it is so rare." When drain cleaners, toilet paper, and Viagra regulation make headlines and eat up political attention, rare is an understatement.