Have we all suddenly gone mad? Have our wits suddenly deserted us? Has common sense been completely routed from our lives? The indications are not good.
In a little-noticed verdict last week, a U.S. District Court of Appeals has decided that the Clean Air Act requires the Environmental Protection Agency to act against farmers who endanger public health by kicking up dust in the course of their business. Expect anti-dust regulations and fines to follow.
For those unfamiliar with pastoral activities, allow me to enlighten: I grew up on a farm, and can personally attest that most types of agriculture require close contact with dirt. Especially for the dry-land types of farming that produce most of the world's cereal crop, a cloud of dust is the unavoidable consequence of preparing the land for planting. Even using the most modern and minimal cultivation techniques, it's a grimy business.
But the Big Wazoos of regulation in the District of Columbia don't care about details. According to the EPA's spokesperson, the agency's goal is "to protect public health," so the dust must go. How that will be done is somewhat less clear. Perhaps gigantic plastic sheets to trap the noxious stuff before it offends the nostrils of those who eat what farmers grow?
This would be a hilarious illustration of regulatory dogmatism gone wild if it was the sole example of bureaucrats and politicians acting as though we live in a simple and ideal world instead of the messy and complicated one we actually inhabit. Unfortunately ...
Here in Colorado, we have our own examples of the stunning absence of reason. Like our governor, who takes steps to raise tax revenue by tens of millions, but insists his actions do not constitute a "tax increase." The illogic of that statement is so powerful that even the Democrat-packed State Supreme Court can't figure out a way to agree with him.
Or SB 170, the "Illegal Alien Educational Support Act." I know, that's not its title, but it should be: The bill proposes that, out of some addled sense of "fairness," illegal aliens in Colorado should be able to attend our public universities at the taxpayer-subsidized in-state rate of tuition. How the security and integrity of our country's borders will be enhanced by offering further enticements to those who wish to enter and remain here illegally is a bit beyond me. Unless, of course the actual worry is the flood of immigration from Wyoming and Utah, in which case offering favor to citizens of other countries instead of those from neighboring states makes perfect sense. I await the airing of this argument, I fear in vain.
And there's the "FASTER" issue, which allows for tolling of existing roads for the purpose of granting money to the black hole of the Denver FasTrack system. That provision (43-4-812 sub. 2) is on page 53 more-or-less, where "highway maintenance" is defined by legislative fiat to include subsidies for mass transit. This credulity-straining definition is what was behind the gleam of avarice in Mayor Hickenlooper's eye when the tolling of Pena Boulevard came up. Evidently, someone neglected to mention that the road was actually federally administered, so setting up booths would be a little ... complicated.
The above are only a few examples of the illogic, bad sense and failure to acknowledge reality that seem to be proliferating through our leadership class like the flu in a kindergarten. And while it would be mildly diverting if this small madness was limited to fripperies like allowing electric motorcycles to "share the road," when it tips into the delusional skewing of the tax base to support a "new energy economy," we are all affected, and not for the better.
Fortunately, there still may be time to counteract this epidemic before we all are infected. Plain speaking is a good antidote; insisting that politicians call taxes taxes, and that they be clear about who is disadvantaged and who favored by legislation is a beginning. Calling for commonsense solutions to problems is a soporific as well; at the very least, trying to cure a national problem caused by promiscuous extension of easy credit through providing even easier credit at taxpayers' expense is something that requires careful and detailed explanation.
Above all, we should remember the old lessons: that life owes you nothing, that you receive what you earn, and that prudence, sacrifice and optimism are necessary to success. Also, that dirt is not a deadly toxin.
We should understand as well that panic is a species of madness, and that those who seek to exploit it may have reasons for doing so unrelated to our welfare. They should be watched, carefully.
It's only common sense.
Summit County resident Morgan Liddick pens a Tuesday column. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, comment on this column at www.summitdaily.com.