Monday, August 29, 2011

Goat Herders, Food Stamp Water Scam, And Illegal Guitar Frets

Within the last year the political class in Washington spent time and resources passing legislation that gave the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) authority to regulate the sound of television commercials. They seemed to ignore the fact that modern technology gives the American consumer several options in avoiding television commercials and their sound without Federal government intervention:
  • They can use the Mute button on their remote control to kill the commercials' sound volume.
  • They can use the Sound Volume button on their remote control to deaden the commercials' sound volume.
  • They can use the Channel button on their remote control to surf to other channels while the commercials are showing.
  • They can use their DVR capability to record their favorite shows for later viewing, at which time they can use the Fast Forward button on their remote control to quickly bypass the commercials.
They can also do the old fashioned approach to avoiding television commercials: get up and go to the kitchen or bathroom to take care of business. All of these options show how inane, useless, and stupid this Federal government action was. It used up valuable Congressional time and resources and eventually will waste FCC time, resources, and creditability. While the political class was wasting time passing this unnecessary regulation legislation, the issues of failing public schools, leaky orders, illegal immigrants, the lack of a national energy policy, foreign wars, and other major issues went unsolved.

As bad and as embarrassing as this effort was, these extreme wastes of time and excessive regulations continue to emanate from Washington:

- Keeping in mind that there are 14 million unemployed Americans, consider the fact that on August 4th the Federal government's Labor Department recently used government resources to update and revise its rules on sheep and goatherders to make sure that foreign workers do not deprive Americans of these herder jobs. Imagine how much higher unemployment would be if the U.S. government allowed foreigners to take over goatherder jobs that normally would have gone to Americans!

Seriously, are you kidding me? The political class needs to be involved in goatherding activities? Consider the details that went into these unneeded regulations:
  • Any American rancher that wants to hire a non-American sheepherder or goatherder has to submit a formal application to Federal and state bureaucrats no more than 75 calendar days and no less than 60 calendar days before the date of hiring.
  • The application must attest that there are no qualified and able U.S. citizens available to fill the available sheepherder or goatherder job.
  • The application must also swear that hiring a foreign herder will not negatively affect "the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers."
  • If a state bureaucrat finds an American shepherd available for the vacant job, the rancher must attempt to place the qualified American shepherd.
  • The Federal government has developed an 87 word definition of what constitutes a shepherd job in order to know when these regulations should be enforced.
  • A foreign shepherd's employment should not exceed one year although an extension for further employment can be submitted for review to the Department of Homeland Security.
  • The hiring rancher must provide a cell phone to each shepherd that is hired.
  • The hiring rancher must provide three meals a day for their shepherds.
You cannot make this stuff up. Two major Federal departments are involved, Labor and Homeland Security, involving lord knows how many Federal employees and resources for what has to be an extremely small part of our economy. What a waste of taxpayer money. Also, I would much rather have Homeland Security personnel dealing with real terrorist activities than dealing with sheepherder contract hiring extensions.

- While shepherding is a small, and unnecessary, government activity, food stamps are  not. The food stamp program in America involves tens of billions of dollars every year and millions of American households. In these times of dire economic conditions and high unemployment, there is definitely a need in our society to help feed the less fortunate. However, that does not mean this program should not be seriously reviewed and downsized by identifying and prosecuting those that defraud the program.

What is a major cause of fraud and waste in this government program? Apparently it is water. This is how the scam works:
  • A person somehow qualifies for food stamps issued by the Federal government.
  • The fraudster then takes their food stamps to a supermarket and buys a load of bottled water.
  • Outside of the store, the food stamp recipient empties the water out of all of the water bottles.
  • The fraudster takes the now empty water bottles back into the store, turns them in, and receives cash back for recycling the empty bottles.
The Bangor (Maine) Daily News reported on such a specific scam on August 19, 2011 (similar news stories recently ran in many other reputable publications). They identified an instance where a pair of men purchased $86.79 worth of bottled water using food stamps from Shaw's supermarket in Bangor. The men took the 20 cases, with each case containing 24 bottles of water, went behind the store, and dumped the contents of each of the 480 bottles on the ground. The reporter then witnessed the pair reenter the supermarket with their 480 now empty bottles and claim their bottle deposit redemption cash at the customer service counter. 

The reporter interviewed store employees who contend that this practice is pretty common. The taxpayer gets screwed while criminals translate food stamps for the needy into hard cash for the not needy. And it is a crime to do this kind of scam since the U.S. Congress, acting in 2008, passed legislation that makes it a crime to use Federal food stamps to obtain cash by intentionally discarding products for the redemption cash value. Seems like Congress, for once, nailed the real problem with a real solution.

However, almost two years after the law was passed, it appears that the Department Of Agriculture has yet to get around to setting the penalties and writing the regulations for prosecuting those wasting taxpayer money via the Federal food stamp program. Or according to a government spokesperson, the U.S. Department of Agriculture "is currently developing rulemaking that codifies this statuary provision and provides the program disqualifications periods for these infractions." Translation: we have not gotten around to figuring out how to stop this fraud and waste of taxpayer wealth. When pressed for a timetable, the article reports that the spokesperson was unable to even estimate when the fraud would be addressed, despite approaching the two year anniversary of making this action illegal.

While the Federal bureaucracy cannot implement a simple solution to this fraud, the article reports that state food stamp programs have easily  solved the problem of wasting state government food support funds. In Maine, they made the simple change that state food stamps could not be used for bottle deposit products. Those products must be paid for with a person's own cash. Problem solved without "codifying this statuary provisions." 

If Maine could make such a simple and effective change, why can't the Federal government make the same simple change? Instead, we end up waiting years for a bureaucratic solutions while untold billions of dollars are wasted.

- Ticked off yet by all of this government waste and stupidity? Let's try one more. According to the Wall Street Journal, reporting on August 26, 2011, Federal agents recently raided the facilities of Gibson Guitar in two cities, looking for illegal wood that might be used in the production of Gibson guitars. Gibson's CEO, Henry Juszkiewicz, issued a statement that his company only uses wood from a Forest Stewardship Council supplier and felt that the Federal government was overreaching.

Apparently, the raid was conducted by agents of the Fish and Wildlife Service (who would have thought that these government employees could do "raids"?) who were trying to ensure that Gibson were not using endangered or illegal wood products in their manufacturing processes. It is an attempt to prevent illegally harvested hardwoods from protected forests.

The article also reports on another raid. This raid was conducted at the facilities of A-440 Pianos which had imported several antique pianos called Bosendorfers. While there was no doubt the pianos were not in violation of any illegal harvesting laws, the owner of A-440 did not get his import paperwork exactly right and as a result, two dozen Federal agents raided his business. Two dozen agents for a handful of antique pianos.

So many major issues facing the country and Americans and so many ways for the political class to screw up priorities, not address waste, and put too many resources on very minor problems and not enough resources on very big issues. Would it not be a better use of taxpayer money to take most of those two dozen piano raiders and put them on the billions of dollars wasted in the Federal food stamp program? Couldn't Congressional resources be better used to fix our schools than fretting about loud television commercials? Especially since there are so many ways for Americans to avoid this television sound nuisance, not a crisis , not a problem, just a nuisance? How about working towards getting 14 million Americans to work rather than worrying about sheepherders and goatherders?

Several steps from "Love my Country, Loathe My Government" are needed to address these major screw ups by the political class:
  • Step 1 would reduce Federal government spending by 10% a year for five years. If you starve Federal functions of budget dollars, hopefully the extraneous, non-important government functions would whither up and die.
  • Step 34 would remove politicians from their Congressional committee posts for poor or non-performance of their committee responsbilities. For example, anyone sitting on Congressional agriculture committees would be candidates for removal since two years after it became illegal to dump water and turn food stamps into cash, that law has yet to be implemented and it is unknown when it will be implemented. Definitely dereliction of duty if it takes over two years to implement a solution.
  • Step 39 would restrict all Federal politicians to one term in office. These types of wastes and bad priorities have been gong on for decades. It is time to get rid of the long term politicians that have allowed these types of waste and bad priorities to go on. Term limits would ensure that these people who cannot solve any problem are not long term members of the Federal government.
I find it unbelievable that I can even write about Federal goatherding regulations, wasteful water use to defraud the American taxpayer, and massive manpower dedicated to wooden guitar frets and antique pianos. But that is the reality of what our government is today. I would prefer to write about how our politicians have fixed our failing public schools, about how they have sealed our leaky borders and have developed a fair and compassionate immigration plan, how they have fixed our losing war on drugs, how they have launched a comprehensive and effective national energy program, or how they have eliminated the billions of dollars of fraud in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the IRS. However, those posts will have to wait for a future date.

Our book, "Love My Country, Loathe My Government - Fifty First Steps To Restoring Our Freedom And Destroying The American Political Class" is now available, at It is also available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Please pass our message of freedom onward. Let your friends and family know about our websites and blogs, ask your library to carry the book, and respect freedom for both yourselves and others everyday.

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