"Every entity seeks to preserve itself." This sentence, drummed into my head by my world history professor, has proven true throughout the years. He defined "entity" to be every living creature as well as every legal entity - including political agencies.
Consider also the concept that employees want to feel valuable and do a good job.
But within these truths, there's a danger for employees at government agencies: People look for ways to expand their agency's reach and help people, but their well-intended efforts are still vulnerable to the law of unintended consequences. And those include many negative ripple-effects.
Therefore, without being mean and with full allowance that people are just trying to do good, we must ask ourselves, "How much is enough?" Perhaps we even need to say "Thanks, but no thanks" to the increasing reach of Federal agencies.
The issue that propels me to write this is a proposal from the US Department of Labor that will prohibit kids from helping out on their family farms. Under the proposal, 800,000 kids under the age of 18 will be prohibited from helping with the "storing, marketing, and transporting of farm product raw materials."
That sounds great for the sake of safety, but farm injuries among youth are already down more than 60 percent over the last ten years, so why the sudden concern?
The proposed new rules will also squelch many aspects of 4H and Future Farmers of America programs. For example, safety trainings and certifications currently taught by 4H and FFA will be revoked, and kids will be forced to attend a 90-hour federal government training course.
Isn't that reach a bit extreme? We need to say "Thanks, but no thanks."
The other day I saw a political comic in which Uncle Sam was bringing a package labeled "Internet Censorship" to a table, and a man wearing the nametag of "Corporate Media" was asking "How would you like that packaged?" Behind him were two rolls of wrapping paper: One marked "Terrorist Threats" and another marked "Child Safety."
If that political comic strikes a chord, then you're aware of how things get sold to us in the name of safety. Just consider the Federal TSA screening air passengers (a job that has proven to be cheaper and more effective if done by private agencies) now groping us, our kids, and our grandparents.
Any student of history should be aware of the Hegelian Dialectic, the technique used to confound a populous into thinking it is good for them to turn over their rights to the state. Nobody in their right mind is opposed to safety concerns, but let's take a factual look at some of the extreme measures taken by agency employees once federal laws are enacted.
In the name of food safety, federal inspectors in Nevada forced people attending a private "Farm to Fork" event to pour bleach on their home-grown organic food because they didn't have receipts for it and it was not federally inspected - even though the food was prepared by a certified chef in a certified kitchen.
In the name of balanced diets, a 4-year old girl in North Carolina was forced to eat a school lunch because someone deemed the lunch provided by her mother (a turkey & cheese sandwich, a banana, apple juice, and potato chips) did not meet federal guidelines.
And in the name of wetlands protection, the EPA issued a compliance order to an Idaho couple to stop building a house (even though they had the proper permits), and ordered them to restore their own land to its original pre-construction condition or face huge fines, even though their property was never considered "wetlands" to begin with.
Remember, every entity seeks to preserve itself, and I'm sure the people working at these agencies were trying to help and do good work for their respective agencies.
But how much is enough?
Never in 10 years of writing this column have I advocated contacting lawmakers on any subject, but I think these proposed rules that prevent kids from helping out on farms are extreme, and I think people should contact their lawmakers to protest this one. In other words, I think we've had enough. It's time to say "Thanks, but no thanks."
Under the proposed rules, a 16-year old won't be able to put gas in a lawn mower on his own family's farm, hold a flashlight, or check the tag in the ear of a cow. That same 16-year old won't be able to feed chickens, use a weed whacker, or help stack hay.
Bottom line, this much federal oversight is overkill. Farm work is a great way to teach self-esteem and personal responsibility, but these new rules will prohibit kids from gaining that experience. And parents of farm kids are plenty concerned about their children's safety. I understand that agencies want to perpetuate their existence and agency employees want to feel valuable, but enough is enough.
It's time to contact your lawmakers and say "Thanks, but no thanks."
Good for you! It's voices like yours that have led the administration to back off its proposal.
I agree Peter - great that you could use this platform to raise the issue