I’ve learned over the years that the best subjects to write on are those you’ve experienced personally. Life savvy brings authority. That’s why I appreciated getting my Masters and Doctorate in my fifties, because by that time, I wasn’t a deer-in-the-headlights who knew nothing about the real world.
For the past few months I have been trying to sell our family home–which, for nearly a quarter of century, served as the Boehme savings plan for the future. My current run-in with the regulatory state, and other examples I’ve encountered over forty years, lead me to conclude that we desperately need a new American Revolution to cast off the tyranny of the regulatory state.
If the “frog in the kettle” analogy is accurate anywhere, then it certainly applies to the blood-sucking tentacles of government regulations that are killing this nation.
Here’s my story.
First, let’s look at the bigger picture. For one hundred and fifty years, the government of the United States was relatively small and the burdens of government minimal. In the 1940s under FDR, we began the march toward a cumbersome and expensive regulatory state which continued to grow under both Democratic and Republican administrations.
There’s no partisan blame here. US government regulations have been a rising tide for over seventy years. Local and state governments have followed suit.
But Barack Obama has taken the growth of government intrusion into our lives to stunning new heights. A recent article in the American Thinker states:
“There’s nothing moderate or incremental about the increase in federal regulations – and hence in centralized executive power – under President Obama. To the contrary, according to figures published by the Obama White House, the costs of regulations issued by this administration have dwarfed the costs of regulations issued by prior administrations.”
In fact, the costs of “major” regulations – those estimated to cost at least $100 million in any one year (in 2001 dollars) – issued by the Obama administration in its first three years nearly tripled the cost of those issued by the Clinton administration in its first three years, nearly quintupled the cost of those issued by the George W. Bush administration in its first three years, and nearly doubled the cost of those issued by Bush and Clinton combined. Again, that’s according to the Obama White House’s own tallies.”
In real terms, it’s estimated that the Obama administration has increased the burden of federal regulations between 7-10% over the past four years. That’s 11,327 pages of new constraints on Americans.
So regulations are exploding. New York’s Mayor Bloomberg is even trying to control how big a soda you can drink and whether salt is served in your restaurant of choice.
This growing regulatory creep is like a cancer that has metastasized to every part of the “American body” and is literally choking out the lifeblood of hard-working Americans.
Here is my personal evidence.
I had a recent conversation with my 93-year-old father who was a family doctor for most of his life. He told me that he became a physician at the right time when he was free to practice medicine, make some money for his family, and not be burdened by government sanctions.
He told he that if he were alive today, he probably wouldn’t go into medicine. There are too many regulations and hoops to jump through.
Apparently, many young people today sadly agree with him. Recent studies project a shortage of doctors in this nation because of Obamacare–a vast expansion of federal regulations and controls on the medical world. Doctors are being regulated out of business.
I told my father that, based on these trends, maybe the “best years of medical care are behind us.” He agreed.
That’s so un-American to admit. We have always believed that the best was ahead–that we could create a better world for our children. But the growth of government control is beginning to suppress this historical hope and faith.
Zoning restrictions are another area where government regs are out of control. Let me share an example that really hurts.
Youth With A Mission was given a beautiful thirteen acre campus about ten years ago in the Pacific Northwest near Port Townsend, Washington. At the time we acquired it, the facilities were in poor shape, but years of hard work and expenditures of hundreds of thousands of dollars eventually spruced up the waterfront property with its fifteen buildings and accommodations for over one hundred people.
Today, we call it YWAM Discovery Bay, and use it to train and send missionaries all over the world–especially to China.
A couple years ago, I led a campaign to develop a master plan for the campus. The buildings had been renovated, but they were old, and we wanted to bring it into the 21st century with new condo-like structures and a central lodge or training facility.
An experienced architect from Illinois drafted a master plan for us and we excitedly took it to a meeting with Jefferson County officials to begin talks and launch the project.
At our first planning meeting there were about eight of us around the table. The county had reps for building codes, electrical systems, septic issues and other departments. As we showed them the plans for new buildings and modernization, many of the the government types gave us detailed input, and I thought the proceedings were off to a terrific start.
After about two hours of discussions, the final county representativew spoke. He had listened to all the recommendations of the others while sitting silently in his chair.
I’ll never forget his words:
“Your plans are good, but unfortunately you won’t be able to do any of them. The zoning restrictions on your property don’t allow you to build any structure bigger than 3000 square feet (the size of the house). The only way around it is for you to put park model trailers (400 square foot each) around the campus. You can’t do anything else.”
We were stunned and asked why not. His answer: It’s the regulations.
Our master plan sits on a shelf collecting dust to this day. We have tried everything to get permission to upgrade our facilities–which would be a great blessing to the community and the world.
But to no avail.
The regulatory state is limiting the future of YWAM Discovery Bay.
(As a post-script to this sad tale, we have since learned that the only way around our dilemma is to sue the government using the RLUPA standards that were inaugurated during the Clinton years. These laws state that church buildings or expansion are protected under the First Amendment. One church in our area fought for those rights–but it cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and ten years worth of litigation.)
Now back to my “house” as exhibit A of regulatory over-reach.
Three years ago I needed to upgrade the septic system on our property. I brought in a licensed contractor and began doing the work of putting in a standard $4000 system. But the county stopped us. The “regulations” had changed. They demanded (with the force of law) that we put in a $24,000 whitewater system with four tanks, a pump, an ultra-violet light (that doesn’t work), and numerous bells and whistles.
A Washington State contractor friend of mine says that our county “worships” pure water.
Well, their worship ended up taking $20,000 away from our family savings.
Today, I am trying to sell our house. It’s a beautiful property that we built in 1989 with 3400 square feet on three-quarters of an acre of land. When I first got the idea to sell, I went to my dad to get his advice. He told me that he had sold three homes in his lifetime, and that it was no big deal–just clean it up, make sure there are no major problems, and let someone buy it.
He did so three times, and everything went well.
So we put our house on the market. Now we have a buyer, but the current regulations called for an inspection that took four hours. The inspection is ordered by the FHA which is the housing arm of the federal government. You wouldn’t believe what they told us (unless you’ve sold a house recently):
- We needed to re-roof the house, a $10,000 to $15,000 expense. Was the roof bad? No. I had kept it in pristine condition for over two decades and it would probably last for 10-20 more years. So, why did we have to replace it? Government regs. It’s too old. Doesn’t matter what condition it is in. (So then what really matters? Reality (a good roof) or government fiats? You know the answer.
- We needed to service the furnace. Why? The reality was it was only five years old (new). I’d had it serviced a couple years ago. Why do it again? Because the regulations say so.
- We were told to put smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms in every bedroom. Por que? Because that’s the new law. Never mind our smoke alarms on each floor are fine and CO2 is the latest fad.
- The inspector had seen some pest droppings in the crawl space and an old bird’s nest in the attic. Easy to take care of with bird block and a screen. But no–we are required to pay for a pest control expert to come and clear up everything. (Do government inspectors qualify as pests?)
- Seven to nine windows had seal leaks. I asked whether it was seven or nine. They didn’t know. But new glass had to be put in because they “suspected” a broken seal.
- The hot water heater (brand new) needed seismic straps, cover plates and heat shield, and TPR valve piping. What does that mean and who cares? They did. The regulations say so.
These changes and many more large and small–based on picky bureaucratic mandates–are basically forcing me to create a “new house” for the prospective owners–and then the federal government will release the money.
Bottom line: due to the shenanigans of Big Brother, I will lose $40,000 on this transaction which is 70% of the profit I should have made on selling our most important family asset.
It’s like the government coming and taking 70% of our nest egg–all in the name of safety or we-know-better-than-you. Shirley and I have spent a quarter of a century of blood, sweat and tears, developing an asset that we should be able to be used to bless our family and others.
But in the end, out-of-control regulations will steal two-thirds of it.
That’s not fair–and then there’s all the local, state and federal taxes–including a $5000 “excise” tax on something that we own.
(Oh–I forgot to tell you that I got a letter from the county health department saying it would cost $200 for them to send a letter saying that our septic was fine. The company who services it has already done so–but the county wants its cut too. $200 for a letter. And today I received another letter from a government agency saying that even though the ultra-violet lights are “under study” in our over-priced whitewater septic system. when we sell the house, we need to replace it anyway. Cost? Probably $500.)
Can I scream somewhere?
My fellow Americans: We need a new American Revolution in this country! Government regulations are killing our jobs, our families, our education system, our quality of life, our wealth and property, our future and our hope.
Tell me your story.
What can we do together to stand up to and shrink the all-powerful regulatory state?
May the 2013 Tea Party begin.