"The most common characteristic of all police states is intimidation by surveillance. Citizens know they are being watched and overheard. Their mail is being examined. Their homes can be invaded." ~ Vance Packard
Federal Register Watch
What freedoms have you lost this week?
The Federal Register is the official daily publication for Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of Federal agencies and organizations, as well as Executive Orders and other Presidential Documents. This column attempts to summarize the highlights (or lowlights) of the Federal Register during the preceding week.
Instructions for subscribing to the Federal Register can be found at the end of the column.
JUNE 9, 2003:
CENTERS FOR MEDICARE AND MEDICAID SERVICES ' ACUTE CARE AND LONG TERM CARE PROSPECTIVE PATIENT SYSTEMS
This rule revises the methodology for determining payments for extraordinarily high-cost cases made to Medicare-participating hospitals under the acute care hospital inpatient prospective payment system (IPPS).
Though a political success, Medicare has been a public policy failure. Without reform, it will be insolvent in about 20 years. Its top-down cost control strategy has substantially increased health care costs instead of reducing them. Reimbursement disputes between beneficiaries and the Medicare bureaucracy last, on average, over a year-and-a-half.
Many doctors routinely refuse to take Medicare beneficiaries. Centralized political decision-making has placed hospitals across the nation in a straitjacket with financial viability dependent upon last second Congressional appropriations.
All things considered, Medicare has been a colossal failure for everyone but the politicians.
JUNE 10, 2003:
FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE (FWS) ' DESIGNATION OF CRITICAL HABITAT FOR THE BLACKBURN'S SPHINX MOTH
This ruling designates 55,451 acres in the Hawaiian Islands as critical habitat for the Blackburn's sphinx moth. This figure includes private and State land.
Although the FWS continues to issue critical habitat mandates that violate private property rights, they make an incredible admission in this particular announcement:
'In 30 years of implementing the ESA, the Service has found that the designation of statutory critical habitat provides little additional protection to most listed species, while consuming significant amounts of available conservation resources. The Service's present system for designating critical habitat has evolved since its original statutory prescription into a process that provides little real conservation benefit, is driven by litigation and the courts rather than biology, limits our ability to fully evaluate the science involved, consumes enormous agency resources, and imposes huge social and economic costs.'
Despite the amazing admission that critical habitat designation does little to protect endangered species, the practice continues to this day.
Only a government agency would be incompetent enough to continue implementing a policy or mandate that is proven to be ineffective.
JUNE 13, 2003:
COMMODITY CREDIT CORPORATION ' GRASSLANDS RESERVE PROGRAM
This notice announces the availability of $49.4 million to implement the Grassland Reserve Program in fiscal year 2003. The intent of the program is to protect grassland acreage from conversion to other land uses such as cropland and urban development.
In essence, it pays landowners taxpayer money not to develop their land.
FARM SERVICE AGENCY ' VALUE ADDED PRODUCER GRANTS
This rule proposes to add new regulations for Value Added Producer Grants. The purpose of these grants, which are made directly to agricultural producers, is to 'support the development and implementation of business plans and marketing strategies for value-added products.'
A question: Doesn't the free market profit motive provide enough incentive to encourage producers to develop and implement business plans and marketing strategies on their own, without the use of taxpayer money?
Over $57 million in value-added producer grants has been awarded since this program was first authorized in 2000. The grants may add value to the recipients, but the taxpayers are definitely losing value by being forced to pay for these subsidies.
POSTAL SERVICE ' FIVE-YEAR STRATEGIC PLAN (2004-2008)
The Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 (GPRA) mandated, in 1997, that the Postal Service publish a (Stalinist) 5-year plan outlining its goals, targets, and strategies, and that the Postal Service update and revise its 5-year plan at intervals of no less than 3 years.
Apparently, the previous five-year plan was not too successful. The Postal Service 'posted' a net loss of $700 million in 2002, on top of a $1.7 billion loss in 2001.
Despite a government monopoly on first-class mail service, direct federal subsidies, and exemptions from taxation and anti-trust laws, the 'services' offered by the Post Office are expensive, inferior, and inadequate. On-time delivery is inconsistent at best, and service deteriorates with every increase in stamp prices. Worst of all, customers are viewed as a nuisance.
The best solution to improving delivery service and reducing costs to customers is to end the Post Office monopoly by allowing free market competition in the delivery of first class mail.
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