July 31, 2003 -- The other day, the U.S. Department of Agriculture cafeteria was shut down by the Washington, D.C. Department of Health for health code violations. That’s right, the federal agency that oversees food safety, that inspects meat and poultry, couldn’t keep the mouse droppings out of its own eatery!
But why should we be surprised? Various federal agencies have been raking WorldCom and Enron over the coals for not conforming to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. Yet at a February 23, 2000 Capitol Hill hearing, two senators thought nothing of suggesting that Amtrak, the money-losing government passenger railroad, abandon just those principles—that would too clearly demonstrate just how poorly that railroad was being run. Can’t let the public see that!
Both houses of Congress recently voted to exempt the U.S. military from the Endangered Species Act. After all, how can it defend the country if it is barred from rolling a tank across a field for fear of endangering the “habitat” of some rat, or if it needs to wait years for artillery practice to have the appropriate impact studies made? Of course, how can private Americans run their businesses, their farms, or their own backyards under such silly restrictions?
The U.S. Postal Service is exempt from many of the regulations and all of the taxes to which private competitors are subject, and even from the regulations that restrain the power and thus the abuses of most other government agencies. And, of course, Congress does not apply to itself most of the regulations that it imposes on others.
If the federal government wants to ignore its own regulations, it should exempt the rest of us as well. If not, it should subject itself to all regulations. Then, maybe government agencies will all shut each other down, in the end leaving us a far freer country!