“Did you Google this or anything?”

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Farmer at a town hall event asks President Obama how he can obtain information about new regulations that he, as a farmer, may need to know about. So he can, you know, follow them and stuff.

Obama tells him to “contact the USDA.” This brings knowing chuckles from other farmers in attendance. To which Obama responds, “Talk to them directly. Find out what it is that you’re concerned about.”

So a Politico reporter tried to do just that. He contacted the USDA to get an answer to the farmer’s question. Nine phone calls and, by my count, 14 buck-passing bureaucrats later, the reporter is finally rewarded with . . . an ass-covering, buck-passing press release from the USDA.

The punchline:

So, still no answer to the farmer’s question.

Keep in mind, this was merely an attempt to find out what the regulations are, so the farmer can abide by the law.

(Related: It’s August 18th, and I still haven’t received my 2010 federal income tax refund.)

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36 Responses to ““Did you Google this or anything?””

  1. #1 |  Z | 

    The whole point of government regulations is to make them impossible to follow so you can be fined for breaking them.

  2. #2 |  Laura Victoria | 

    Radley, please tell us why the F@#% you over-withheld? What’s next – Ron Paul checking the box to give extra money to the IRS?

  3. #3 |  Highway | 

    Maybe it’s because I’m in this sort of field, but right off the bat, Obama’s answer was wrong, because USDA would never be in charge of air and water quality regulations. The folks who said to contact US EPA (and whatever state agency, I’m assuming IEPA from the article) are correct. If his information was forwarded to them, then maybe there’s some hope. And he was told twice that he acknowledges to try EPA, which he doesn’t say that he ever did.

    I’ve dealt with the same sort of agencies in my state. Generally people are helpful, but narrow. If they don’t know it, then they don’t even know where to find it. But it really doesn’t excuse the folks at USDA and NRCS from not being more forceful about trying it.

    Also I note that if you google search “Illinois water runoff regulation” two of the first 3 links are to Indiana’s EPA and the US EPA.

  4. #4 |  Highway | 

    I should add tho, that in general, Obama’s advice *is* correct: If you have a question about pending regulation, or proposed projects, then you should ALWAYS call the folks that are in charge of it. You might not like all the answers you get, but that’s where you will get actual correct information. It’s a shame that there isn’t more general knowledge about what other agencies do, as evidenced here, but there are people in every agency that are willing, and sometimes outright it’s their job, to talk to you until you have all the information.

    That’s not to say you will be successful in stopping a construction project, or rolling back regulation. But those agencies will talk to you, and will actually direct you to the correct person, if you can get in the neighborhood.

  5. #5 |  David | 

    Radley, please tell us why the F@#% you over-withheld? What’s next – Ron Paul checking the box to give extra money to the IRS?

    Because making sure that you’re going to withhold exactly the right amount of money would involve understanding the tax code, and if you think you can understand every government regulation that applies to you, you clearly didn’t read this post.

  6. #6 |  Brian | 

    The only rational option is to assume such regulations do not exist. Then make sure you remain poor and anonymous.

  7. #7 |  Dave Krueger | 

    “Have a seat right over there. We’ll get to ya, when we get to ya.”

  8. #8 |  Dave Krueger | 

    (Related: It’s August 18th, and I still haven’t received my 2010 federal income tax refund.)

    Christ. You act like it’s your money or something.

  9. #9 |  JS | 

    In America people have to work vey hard to be legal. Think about that.

  10. #10 |  Cyto | 

    I thought Obama’s non-answer was pretty good. Hidden in there was the bit about “some staffer” writing an article and then people in Washington getting “all ginned up” about something that might not happen. He said they weigh the costs of regulation and it might not happen.

    Those things are not independent. The “cost” he’s talking about is the political cost to the members who’s constituents are “all ginned up”. If you don’t get active, you get the shaft. So even if you win, you’ve wasted time defending the status quo to prevent a more onerous outcome.

    I’ve seen this up close and personal. Our industry went through a 3 year fight with a large, well-connected industry that attempted to put us out of business via legislation. The Clinton administration twice slipped a 50% excise tax on our industry into legislation at the 11th hour (in the reconciliation committee). We had to pay millions to lobbyists and lawyers to monitor the proceedings and be prepared to get a few thousand people to contact their representatives at a moment’s notice. We ultimately won, but the fight cost our company on the order of a hundred million dollars, and industry wide it cost hundreds of jobs.

  11. #11 |  Aresen | 

    We’ll let you know what the regulations are when we arrest you for breaking them.

    ;P

  12. #12 |  croaker | 

    “Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed?” said Dr. Ferris. “We want them broken. You’d better get it straight that it’s not a bunch of boy scouts you’re up against—then you’ll know that this is not the age for beautiful gestures. We’re after power and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you’d better get wise to it. There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be enforced nor objectively interpreted—and you create a nation of law-breakers—and then you cash in on guilt. Now that’s the system, Mr Rearden, that’s the game, and once you understand it, you’ll be much easier to deal with.”

  13. #13 |  mdb | 

    No one who has ever tried to comply with any regulations will be surprised by this. If the regulations were clear, the regulators could retire with government pension and health care at 50 and charge $200 an hour as consultants to help people understand the regulations.

  14. #14 |  derfel cadarn | 

    Plain and simple the government is out of control. It is time WE, The PEOPLE took back our country. If we refuse to cooperate what are they going to do? Shoot us ALL.

  15. #15 |  Obama’s bad advice shows why politicians don’t ‘get’ bureaucracy « David McElroy | 

    […] This comes from a link at the Agitator, which I continue to recommend as an excellent source for interesting reporting and links. […]

  16. #16 |  DoubleU | 

    Radley, on the http://www.irs.gov website there is a section called “Where is my refund” and it should give you a date after you fill out the information. If it doesn’t call the number, and go through the bureaucracy. and yes, you need the “www” in front of irs.gov… unless they fixed that.

  17. #17 |  Chris Hansen | 

    Laura, if you underestimate you get penalized. Interestingly enough, if you overestimate, and wait months on end to get your refund, you get no interest.

  18. #18 |  Radley Balko | 

    DoubleU:

    Thanks, but I’m way, way past the “Where is my refund” stage. See the link.

  19. #19 |  Stress N. Strain | 

    If it makes you feel any better, a surprise court hearing has been called for the West Memphis 3 tomorrow.
    http://news.yahoo.com/surprise-court-hearing-west-memphis-3-spurs-hopes-001943430.html

  20. #20 |  steve | 

    One government employee suggested google. Another government employee said the dust, waste water, and noise regulations refered to by the farmer asking the question was an EPA thing.

    So I googled it and found this.

    http://www.ipcb.state.il.us/SLR/IPCBandIEPAEnvironmentalRegulations-Title35.asp

    None of the 1662 documents listed had the words farm in the title. One is titled “Livestock Waste Regulations” and another “Procedures For Reporting Releases Of Livestock Waste”

    So no real help there I think.

    Of course, he is talking about future regulations so you wouldn’t really expect it to be there. But, you never know. I thought it was worth a try.

  21. #21 |  steve | 

    “Plain and simple the government is out of control. It is time WE, The PEOPLE took back our country. If we refuse to cooperate what are they going to do? Shoot us ALL.”

    It’s been done before.

  22. #22 |  Frank Hummel | 

    “It’s August 18th, and I still haven’t received my 2010 federal income tax refund.”

    IRS sent it to your old address in VA.

  23. #23 |  DarkEFang | 

    Things like this aren’t really a surprise when you consider that:

    – Half the time, the people in charge of government agencies want to write rules covering every possible scenario that’s ever occurred in the history of the world because they don’t trust the judgment of other people; and

    – The other half of the time, the people in charge of those agencies want to prove that their agency doesn’t work, and intentionally go about fucking things up as much as humanly possible.

    It’s a perfect storm of nanny-state bureaucracy and willful incompetence, and the rules change every time the White House changes parties.

  24. #24 |  dsmallwood | 

    #11 | Aresen |

    when i was a younger man, the line was “just keep betting, we’ll let you know how you doing at the end.”

    hmmmmmm ……..

  25. #25 |  Me2 | 

    “You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you’d better get wise to it. There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on guilt. Now that’s the system, Mr. Rearden, that’s the game, and once you understand it, you’ll be much easier to deal with.”

  26. #26 |  Bernard | 

    The funny thing is that Obama probably believes that the USDA is ultra-responsive and will answer the question within half an hour even if the question isn’t specifically their area. That’s the problem with having leaders who are treated like Sheikhs.

    Let’s ask Barack a few other everyday questions and see how he addresses them:

    ‘What should I do if I’m stuck in Manhattan traffic on a friday afternoon before my daughter’s music recital?’

    Easy. Just get your motorcade to clear the road and you’ll be out of there in seconds.

    ‘What should I do if someone suspicious is following me and I’m not sure who they are?’

    Let your security detail handle that stuff. There’s no need to get involved.

    ‘What should I do if watching the news about suffering in Libya, Iraq or Afghanistan makes me feel sad?’

    Do what I do. Call up the Joint Chiefs and liberate those mofos!

  27. #27 |  A Few Random Morning Links … | The Pretense of Knowledge | 

    […] “Did you Google this or anything?” […]

  28. #28 |  Abersouth | 

    How is it no commenter yet has mentioned the parallels to Kafka’s “the Castle”?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Castle_(novel)

  29. #29 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Well, Obama is clearly a genius and if he can’t figure it out…

    On the plus side for big government supporters, my experience has been that I can break any corp’s customer service in about 5 minutes. Most things just don’t work and no one is real interested in fixing them.

  30. #30 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    - The other half of the time, the people in charge of those agencies want to prove that their agency doesn’t work, and intentionally go about fucking things up as much as humanly possible.

    Ron Swanson agrees.

  31. #31 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Forgot to mention that a clear, easy way to figure out what the regulations are is to go about your business and be successful. You’ll find out quickly while being arrested. The bastards that show up will have the answers to every question then.

  32. #32 |  DarkEFang | 

    I had to look Ron Swanson up on Wikipedia. I’m going to have to start watching Parks & Recreation.

  33. #33 |  J | 

    DarkEFang-
    http://www.bizologie.com/casual-friday-the-swanson-pyramid-of-greatness/

  34. #34 |  JS | 

    Me2 #25, great post!

  35. #35 |  Terris Linenbach | 

    “Nanny State” – Yes, regulations are bad because corporations would never ever avoid a loss by dumping rancid meat on the market. We can trust them to always do the right thing.

  36. #36 |  October 3 roundup | 

    […] led to public opinion blowback for President Obama [Diane Katz/Heritage, Environmental Legal Blogs, Radley Balko] Shutting down EPA isn’t likely under GOP reign, but reforming EPA might be [Adler, NYT "Room […]

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