Who’s Fish Is It?

Greg Walcher from The American Spectator wants to know. So do I, So does President Trump. Here’s why.

[R]estaurant owners may know that open-faced sandwiches are regulated by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), part of the Department of Health and Human Services. But if a second piece of bread is added on top, it is regulated by the Department of Agriculture (USDA). That’s because the USDA has a very specific definition of a sandwich: two slices of bread with the meat in the middle. So, is a hot dog a sandwich? The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council says no, but the State of California says yes. How about a burrito? Massachusetts ruled that a burrito is not a sandwich, but New York says it is. A cheese pizza is regulated by the FDA, but add pepperoni and it becomes a USDA matter. When you make an omelet, FDA regulates the eggs you crack, but if you pour liquid eggs from a carton, it’s USDA.

Regulations can be confusing, sometimes because of vague wording, but often because of overlapping jurisdictions. It is not always obvious who is in charge. Clean water rules are under the jurisdiction of the EPA, but projects that might affect stream water require permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. A salmon or sturgeon swimming in the ocean is under the jurisdiction of the National Marine Fisheries Service, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Commerce. But if the same fish swims upstream into a river, it becomes province of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, part of the Interior Department.

Pundits have made fun of such regulatory silliness for years. Hillary Clinton joked about the sandwich rules when running for the Senate 18 years ago. At least two presidents have cited the weird pizza rules, yet nobody did anything about the regulatory mess.

That is the impetus behind a new Trump Administration government reorganization proposal, which could have a dramatic effect on management of Interior, Commerce, USDA, and HHS, among others. In some areas, jurisdictional lines would become much clearer. For instance, all agencies that regulate food safety would be consolidated under the USDA, covering virtually all the foods we eat.

The “civil works” programs at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would be moved to the Transportation and Interior Departments, which would better align those missions and eliminate much duplication. The Corps of Engineers is an unusual creature, a military agency headed by a general, which reports to a civilian at the Pentagon (Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works), and regulates economic activity that has nothing to do with the Army. The Corps owns and operates dams and water infrastructure, exactly like Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation does.

As an example, in my home State of Colorado, the Corps has Chatfield and Cherry Creek reservoirs, but Reclamation has Blue Mesa, Granby, McPhee, Ridgway, Rifle Gap, and a couple dozen others.

It’s just silly. Yes, I can understand how it got that way, but just because there is a reason for silliness is not a reason why silliness must go on forever.

And it can lead to real costs, even jail. We’ve all heard the stories about how being forced to comply with one regulation, law, whatever, requires one to break another. Some say that it is a feature, not a big, of the big state, that they can arrest anyone at any time. Well, that might be a feature for the denizens of the stagnant swamp, it is decidedly a hindrance on anyone trying to accomplish anything.

The President has a plan to reorganize government, consolidating a lot of the programs. It probably doesn’t go far enough, and many of them should likely be simply eliminated, and their powers cease, but half a loaf is better than no bread at all. I’m not sure there has really been progress on this front since Coolidge was president.

And the real problem is this, with all the overlapping authority, the ability to hide responsibility and make people spend years running around in the maze has likely done more damage to our economy than China could do in a century. Time to clean the stables.

My grandfathers lived in a world where what was said in Minneapolis was much more important than what anyone said in Washington, at least in peacetime. That was what the founders envisioned, in most things other than defense, government should be close enough to home for the citizens to slap it up the side of the head with a two by four, not so far away that we need an ICBM to get their attention.

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Stop Doing Low-Value Work

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAbSAAAAJGE3YjEwMjU0LWRlNDItNGY3Yi05ZDA1LTFjYjg1NDkxMjdiMQThis is from the Harvard Business Review, and it’s very true. I’m a small business guy, which means I’m a generalist, it also means that as much as possible, I lean on technology to take care of all the details, it works surprisingly well. Here’s some from Priscilla Claman’s article.

In the past, time management experts would recommend that you divide up your work into A tasks, B tasks, and C tasks. The concept was to do the A tasks first, then the B tasks, then the C tasks, when you can get to them. If priorities changed, you just changed the order of your As, Bs, and Cs. Doing all aspects of a job seemed possible then, if you just followed some basic time management rules.

That kind of thinking ended during the recession of 2007-2009. Between January 2008 and February 2010, 8.8 million jobs were lost. Although the jobs went away, much of the work didn’t. Teachers ended up with more children in a classroom; customer service representatives ended up with more phone calls; and managers ended up with more people to manage as teams were consolidated. No matter the job, everyone ended up with a lot more work. And although there have been real gains in productivity since then, the days of A, B, and C tasks are over. Overwhelmed is the new normal.

Therefore, it’s actually a matter of professional life or death to get rid of your low-value work – tasks that mean little or nothing to customers or colleagues. Take an active approach. Design a new, do-able job for yourself. Here’s when to do it:

via Stop Doing Low-Value Work

All true, but as usual, designed for corporate life, and for those of us in small business, it looks a bit different. Mostly we don’t do all those reports she speaks of, we’ve never had time, or the manpower, for that. And to be honest, when the management team is 5-10 people, neither have we had the need. One of the things about small business life is that we don’t have the underfoot for lily-gilding overhead, usually we don’t have the taste either.

In many ways, that’s why the regulatory burden falls so heavily on us. We have neither the people nor the taste to do endless forms, that don’t fit our system, and contribute nothing to our operations. From our chair, they are simply a waste of time. None of us, for example, have any desire to get our people hurt, but multi-thousand pages of OSHA regulation will never, in our mind, be as good, as supervisors with a modicum of common sense. Same in almost all areas.

In fact, that is why I’ve never been afraid to compete with the ‘big boys’, I’m so much more maneuverable, that they don’t have a chance. Sadly, that’s not as true anymore, their cronies in the government have saddled us all with so much nonsense paperwork, required by law, that we’re bogging down. True for us, true for the small banks, I think, true for almost all small business.

We’re still having lots of good ideas out here, in the office, and the field, but they’re getting set aside, we can’t find people willing to work 16/7/365 and do it productively.

In fact, we’re not either. The Sad part is, I don’t see anyone on the horizon that is likely to make any difference to this imposed cost, none at all.

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