On Crazy Government Requests and Subsidizing Economists

There is some chance this may be apocryphal (I don't see any evidence the reporters confirmed this with the FDA), but as someone who has had government inspectors show up on our property demanding to see our license to sell eggs, it wouldn't surprise me if true.  I am bombarded with government insanity of this genre every day.

Apparently, a children's magician who was forced to obtain a government license for his stage rabbit is claiming

My USDA rabbit license requirement has taken another ridiculous twist. I just received an 8 page letter from the USDA, telling me that by July 29 I need to have in place a written disaster plan, detailing all the steps I would take to help get my rabbit through a disaster, such as a tornado, fire, flood, etc. They not only want to know how I will protect my rabbit during a disaster, but also what I will do after the disaster, to make sure my rabbit gets cared for properly.  I am not kidding–before the end of July I need to have this written rabbit disaster plan in place, or I am breaking the law.

The bizarre government requests like this one at least give us a laugh around here.  Less funny are the zillions of other pieces of waste paper that must be supplied to various agencies every month -- for example the 9 different permits which took 3 years to accumulate from Ventura County just to remove a dangerous and rotting deck  (not coincidentally, we are closing all our business in Ventura County at the end of this year).  Just in the last several days the Department of Labor asked for new, more onerous monthly reporting of headcounts and payroll by state (I declined) and the census bureau asked for quarterly rather than annual detailed reports of our lodging business (I declined).

One piece of advice I would give to harried small business people is to say "no" as often as possible to these data requests.  Obviously, you will need to turn in your monthly sales tax reports or you will be going to jail, but do you really need to feed the census?  The department of Commerce?  The Department of Agriculture?  The Labor Department?  Much of this data they gather is used either 1) to craft regulations that will just make your life as a business owner harder in the future or 2) to subsidize academics and economists in the form of free data.  As I told the Labor Department the other day, I am happy to fill out their survey if they want to pay me, say, $100 a month to compensate me for my time.  Otherwise they are just stealing free labor and proprietary data from me to help some grad student write her PHD or help some Wall Street hedge fund manager better call the market.


  1. perlhaqr:

    One page, one line, titled "Disaster Plan for Rabbit". "In case of a catastrophic disaster, my plan is to break the rabbit's neck and eat it."

  2. perlhaqr:

    I mean, saying "no" is fun, but I think horrifying people is more fun.

  3. Please dont tell the IRS:

    You are cheap. My going rate is $1000 per hour, 1,000 hours minimum, payable in advance in cash.

  4. sch:

    Reminds me of form 5500ez for my Keogh, once an IRS form, downloadable or sent automatically if you previously filed a 5500ez, then the DOL took over the reporting
    requirements and the form could not be downloaded and had to be requested via the 800#. You only got one unless you requested more and no more automatically sent forms.
    Form was "similar" to the IRS form previously used, but since it had to be machine readable, you had to block print inside of squares, no script allowed. Dunnoh why they never
    made the form on line, too much trouble interfacing with very old legacy systems no doubt.

  5. Matthew Slyfield:

    No, that won't do. The official said killing rabbits and feeding them to snakes without any permits is fine. If you want to use it for human consumption then you need permits from both the USDA and the FDA. To get these permits, please fill out the following 9,000,000 pages worth of forms, in triplicate. . .

  6. NRG:

    While I have been away from this venue for a few years, I do have some experience to share. I'll open by saying, the USDA has WAY overstepped it's bounds here. US Department of Agriculture first regulated only animals/rabbits for human consumption. Later they were tasked with the requirement to police "laboratory animals". The description of "laboratory animals" seems to have become so vague as to include this magician's single pet rabbit. Likely because the animal produces income for him. It used to be that $600 was the threshold. $600+ meant you were required to have a facilities inspection and complete licensing.

    My advice? Get a rat. Pull a rat from the hat. It's poetic and avoids the USDA regs. Guinea pig? NO, regulated. Hamster? NO, regulated. Mouse? Too stinky. Rat? The next best thing.

    BTW, in the 1980's my friend gave up her USDA permit for hamsters. She was no longer allowed to sell hamsters to pet shops. Why? Because the facilities inspector required new paint every year for three consecutive years. And the final straw was a minor crack in the cement floor needed to be repaired. That is remove the entire floor and replace with fresh concrete. No complaints about the care and feeding and breeding of the actual hamsters. Just pain and the floor.

  7. NRG:

    Warren, here is the rule http://www.aphis.usda.gov/newsroom/2012/12/contingency_rule.shtml. This is not a "request for information". This is a condition of the license. No disaster plan, no rabbit license for the magician. He cannot simply say "no".

    It was the animal welfare act that set this slippery slope on the downhill slide.

  8. Fred:

    Try asking them for their information collection request number (OMB number) and for the federal register citation providing notice of the proposed collection. Then watch the squirming begin.

  9. Nehemiah:

    Is he sure the letter wasn't from PETA?

    My answer, in the event of a disaster, the rabbit gets eaten and his little pelt made into earmuffs.