Federal Register Watch
by Nick Ebinger 
January 26 - 30, 2004
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.
MONDAY, JANUARY 26:
INTERNATIONAL TRADE ADMINISTRATION - PAPER OR PLUNDER?
The agency is preparing to place tariffs on plastic shopping bags imported from China, Malaysia and Thailand, as a result of complaints from domestic producers. China alone produced $127 million worth of plastic bags exported to the U.S. in 2002, and these regulations would increase the price of these bags by up to 57%. (The tariffs on the Thai and Malaysian bags would be even higher, at rates of up to 123%.)
These tariffs are excess costs that do nothing to help the U.S. economy. The increased costs involved will be passed on to American consumers, and the inefficient domestic bag-producing industry will be propped up by those consumers to the detriment of the American economy as a whole (as well as American liberty).
DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY - THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO OFFER FINANCIAL LITERACY EDUCATION
The Treasury Department will be holding the first meeting for its Financial Literacy and Education Commission. The federal government--an organization that uses every opportunity it can get to expand the credit available to it (usually involving some form of theft, violence or duplicity), that then abuses that credit and runs up multi-trillion dollar debts, that spends this borrowed money without a decent accounting of where it goes, and that bases its solvency to a large extent on a currency that it's spent the last 90 years debasing--expects us to take it seriously as a dispenser of financial education and literacy?
Fat chance. The federal government has been crawling with Keynesians--or worse--for decades, and I, for one, won't be drinking its Kool-aid.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 29:
DEPARTMENT OF STATE - SPEAKING OF IGNORING THE AUSTRIAN ECONOMISTS . . .
The Department of State has determined that an art exhibit - "Vienna: Jews and the City of Music 1870-1938" - is of "cultural significance" and can therefore be imported into the U.S. There is no good reason why the state should reasonably be considered a decent arbiter of what art is "culturally significant." Of course, Big-Budget Bush, having infamously recently signed off on a massive increase in funding for the National Endowment for the Arts , has shown where he stands on the issue.
If the federal government is going to delve into the intellectual flowering that occurred in Austria at the end of the Hapsburg period, perhaps it should examine what early Austrian economists would say about bureaucrats meddling in the art world and disavowing free trade.
FRIDAY, JANUARY 30:
CENTERS FOR MEDICARE AND MEDICAID SERVICES - PAPER-PUSHERS ALSO PUSHING PILLS
This agency is extending the comment period for a proposed rule about Medicare payments for psychiatric hospitals. Where is your tax money going when government dollars support these institutions?
After a series of trips to mental hospitals in 1972, a science journalist infamously exposed  the psychiatric establishment as a source of cant and blather, and, to a large extent, it remains so to this day. (If more humane these days, government psychiatric hospitals nonetheless rely too heavily on unnecessary medication .)
So, who's crazy and deserves help? The people that believe that government is the best institution to help the mentally ill.
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