How's That Government Meddling Workin' Out for Ya'?
Back in the heyday of the old Soviet Union an agricultural commissar from the Ukraine was summoned to the Agricultural Ministry in Moscow to report on the year's potato crop. "Ah, Comrade Minister," said the commissar, beaming, "If all the potatoes harvested this year were put into a single pile, it would reach to the feet of God."
"What!" exclaimed the minister, "you know that in Communism there is no God."
"Also," sighed the commissar, "in the Ukraine is no potatoes."
There was more truth than fiction to this old saw; and we remember the "good old days" of the USSR with complete government rule over production, 5-year plan after 5-year plan, and nothing but empty shelves, long lines just to buy bread, and tinny little cars for the few who could buy even that.
And we congratulated ourselves that in the good old U S of A, we were smart enough to allow market forces to bring abundance and luxury into every grocery, department store, or auto showroom. Shortages, certainly, were little known with respect to anything Americans needed or wanted. That may not be so true a whole lot longer, if Obama and his leftist-thinking ideologues continue to have their way.
Consider the following:
● Drugs needed to treat for ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) are in seriously short supply, as reported by the New York Times. It seems that the DEA worries that too much production might lead to theft, so it sets quotas on how much of the relevant drugs the pharmaceutical industry may produce each year. In its bureaucratic wisdom, this has caused severe shortages of the drugs for people, especially children, who badly need them.
● There's no shortage, however, of alternative-fueled cars; there's a glut thanks to government meddling. The recent automobile show in Detroit displayed a panoply of plug-in and hybrid vehicles that few, if any, buyers want. Reported Nick Bunkley:
Automakers are flooding the Detroit auto show with new hybrid and plug-in models, but the combination of gas prices below $4 a gallon and higher upfront costs for the cars is not attracting consumers.
Regardless, the automakers have little choice but to develop and try to push more hybrids as they prepare for fuel-efficiency requirements that call for significant increases later this decade.
● But there is a huge shortage of a mandated fuel additive. The feds may be levying up to $6.8 million in fines on oil companies who fail to blend into their gasoline and diesel fuels cellulosic biofuel, which is not available commercially, but which government planners demand refiners to blend in.
● On the other hand, the DoT's "Cash for Clunkers" program did create a shortage of affordable used cars because the rules set up by the planners mandated that, while the cars turned in had to be in drivable condition, they could not be resold on the secondhand market, but had to be completely scrapped. Unintended consequences of government meddling struck again.
● Incandescent light bulbs aren't in such short supply yet - but they soon will be. In its infinite wisdom, Congress decided to set standards for light bulbs that could not be met by the kinds based on the original Edison design and still widely in use throughout the nation. Beginning January 2012, the 100-watt size was to be effectively banned, to be followed in subsequent years by bulbs of other wattages.
Yes, a last-minute bit of legislation withholds funding for enforcement of the ban; but it's too late to do any good. Manufacturers have already shut down production and moved jobs offshore to Asia, where the expensive substitute CFLs are made. Says ABC News:
But what many Republicans are celebrating as a win for individuals' light-bulb-choosing freedom will probably not save the energy-guzzling bulbs from disappearing off store shelves.
"The industry has moved on," said Larry Lauck, a spokesman for the American Lighting Association.
Lauck said U.S. light bulb manufacturers have already "retooled" their production lines to build more efficient bulbs, he said.
● Sometimes bureaucratic interference doesn't create an actual shortage of something but simply drives its price sky high over what once were free-market levels. Take the recent case of colchicine, as explained by Slate.com:
A drug called colchicine is all that keeps some 2 million American gout patients from suffering debilitating pain in their toes, elbows, wrists, and fingers. Doctors have prescribed the compound, derived from the seeds of the autumn crocus, for centuries.
But patients who take colchicine woke up with a new symptom recently: a giant pain in the wallet. Until January, colchicine was sold by many companies and cost as little as 10 cents a pill. Now it's available only under the trade name Colcrys, sold by a Philadelphia company called URL Pharma -- for five dollars per pill.
It seems that, although the drug was originally approved in 1974 and had no history of problems, somebody (you get three guesses who) with access to political ears persuaded the FDA to revoke all licenses for its manufacture and require producers to go anew through an approval and licensing procedure. At the normal market price of a dime a pill, it's small wonder that only one company bothered to do so and now can charge any price it pleases.
● These are, of course, only a few examples of the egregious way in which the government began in January 2009 to control ever more of the American economy - banking, finance, autos, energy production, and whatever else some élitist types believed they know better how to do than Americans can do for themselves in a free market economy.
● The Obama DOJ even tried to take away a church or synagogue's right to hire and fire its own spiritual leaders and religious teachers -- stopped only by the unanimous Supreme Court decision earlier this week "exempting" religious organizations from the burden of the pervasive employment rules that govern secular enterprises.
● Speaking of employment, though, PepsiCo's largest bottling unit is being forced by the EEOC to pay a whopping $3 million-plus fine and offer jobs and training to blacks, against whom the government says Pepsi discriminated by choosing not to hire applicants who didn't pass the company's criminal background check.
Shortages, pricing screw-ups, unintended adverse consequences, micromanagement of citizens' private lives - the Soviets did all that; the Chinese as well; and the North Koreans and Cubans are still at it, all to ill effect. Never before in our nation's history have we moved so quickly and so unthinkingly down this dangerous path. Look around, and keep this in mind when you cast your votes in 2012.