The Government's One Cost Advantage: It Can Exempt Itself from Regulation

Greg Patterson brings us this example from the AZ legislature, but this sort of thing is ubiquitous:

Just before I got to the Legislature, there was a big move to regulate day care facilities.  Naturally, the government has a role in establishing basic health and safety standards for facilities that take care of young children, so I thought it was a good move.

Then a funny thing happened.  The Legislature established one set of standards for private day care facilities and a different (lower) set of standards for public or non-profit day care facilities.  Some Legislators dared to ask why the health and safety rules would be different depending on what type of entity owned the facility.  After all, if a rule is really in place to keep a child healthy and safe, why should a publicly owned facility be exempt or have a lower standard?

The answer, of course, is that there's no reason for publicly owned facilities to have a different regulatory regime than private facilities and that these bills were really just disguised attempts to ensure that private day cares couldn't compete with public ones

We are facing something similar in my world.  As you may know, my company operates government parks and campgrounds on a concession basis (which means we get no government money, we are paid by the user fees of visitors).  This makes sense because we can do it less expensively and usually better than the government agency.

Recently, the Obama Administration has imposed an executive order that we concessionaires on Federal lands have to pay a $10.10 minimum wage.  Since most of our costs are labor, this is causing us to have a to raise fees to customers substantially to offset the higher costs.

In response to these fee increases, the US Forest Service in California is in the process of taking back traditionally concession-run campgrounds to run themselves, in-house.  Their justification is that they can do it cheaper.   Part of this is just poor government accounting -- because many costs (risk management/insurance, capital assets, interest on investments) don't hit their budgets but show up on other parts of the government's books, what appears to be lower costs is actually just costs that are hidden.  But their main cost savings is that since the Federal government is exempt from labor law and this new executive order, the Forest Service can staff the park with volunteers.  They are allowed to pay a minimum wage of ... zero!

This is just incredibly hypocritical, to say with one statement that private companies need to pay campground workers more and with the very next action take over the campground and staff it with people making nothing.


  1. mogden:

    Look, business owners and other filthy plutocrats shouldn't complain about this kind of thing. They should be grateful that they are allowed to operate at all without being thrown into jail.

  2. Jim Rose:

    When I joined the public service In Canberra, I found that the federal government had exempted itself from the local rules on fire safety and fire drills. There was quite common for the Federal government to exempt itself from state regulation in Australia.

  3. Chris Smith:

    You should contact the AFGE and point out that the Forestry service is using unpaid volunteers to do jobs that should require pay. :)

  4. Frank Ch. Eigler:

    It's almost as though regulations were not just about the apparent benefit to the public, but about the actual control over the public.

  5. Nimrod:

    "43% of Democrats believe the president should have the right to ignore the courts."

    Now, does it seem like a huge surprise that that anyone would believe that the government should be allowed to ignore its own regulations?

  6. Not Sure:

    "It's good to be the king." - Mel Brooks

  7. DirtyJobsGuy:

    Watch the push for pre-K school. Here in CT its a not so hidden way to increase union membership by making the preschool workers state workers. The Democrat Party here is now 100% beholden to the teachers unions without much attempt at disguising it. (see also NYC/NY State, etc. This is not an accident.

  8. Curt:

    I thought you bailed from SOCAL

  9. Nehemiah:

    What is good for the goose is good for the gander, so we are told.

  10. Matthew Slyfield:

    The US Federal government is inherently exempt from state regulations. Then they go and exempt themselves from their own regulations.

  11. G. Brown:

    Volunteers? What is the Forestry Service going to do with the camper fees? I am pretty sure they are required by federal law to reinvest all that money into the operation and maintenance of those same campgrounds they collect money at. Am I wrong about that? Sounds like something crooked to me.