Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Power grab by the DEA

I’ve been interested lately in the way that government agencies attempt to grab power for themselves above and beyond what their actual mandate accounts for.  For instance an agency who attempts to get power from Congress over an arena that traditionally belongs to another agency.

This just whisked across the wire:

    Innovative new drugs such as OxyContin that have been developed in the last two decades provide targeted relief for intractable pain. While they have helped innumerable patients, they have also been abused. The DEA response?

    One was to try and get the power (now exclusively vested in the FDA) to have a final say over whether new narcotic medications should come to the market. Legislation to do so was temporarily passed in 2004 and the DEA sought its reauthorization in 2005 -- as a "rider" attached to its appropriations bill, without Congressional debate. At one time, the DEA even sent out solicitations to hire clinicians to review new drug applications for narcotics, a role reserved for the FDA. The DEA has stepped back from that effort -- at least for now.

It's often the case that measures that increase federal power are hidden inside larger bills and don't get adequate congressional scrutiny.  So now you have another case.  For your information this type of thing happens all the time, and is just another of the plethora of reasons to outlaw unrelated riders on Federal bills before Congress.  If you didn't already believe that.

It's interesting how, when looking back at the age where the Fed really started to acquire power in the early 20th century, much of the control that government has over society was inserted and enacted without popular support.  Social Security was generally unpopular in the 30s and 40s, as it went across the traditional American value of self-reliance.  But it ended up being sold as something it wasn't, and in the end many of it's measure have been passed as riders on larger omnibus bills which are difficult for legislators to vote against (usually because of something else that's in there).

Here's another example.  This is what Barack Obama says about a bill he introduced last year:

    American Jobs: Barack Obama introduced the Patriot Employer Act of 2007 to provide a tax credit to companies that maintain or increase the number of full-time workers in America relative to those outside the US; maintain their corporate headquarters in America; pay decent wages; prepare workers for retirement; provide health insurance; and support employees who serve in the military.

And this is what it does:

    The legislation, called the 'Patriot Employer Act', defines patriotic businesses as those that

    • "Pay at least 60 percent of each employee's health care premiums,"
    • Have a position of "neutrality in employee [union] organizing drives,"
    • "Maintain or increase the number of full-time workers in the United States relative to the number of full-time workers outside of the United States,"
    • Pay a salary to each employee "not less than an amount equal to the federal poverty level," and
    • Provide a pension plan.

So your patriotic if you obey, or fall into line with what certain members of government want you to do.  That's an interesting definition of the word "patriot" if you ask me.  And by the way, the tax credit is miniscule. 

But this type of stuff happens all the time.  Make the name of the bill sound good enough and it doesn't matter what it's called.

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