The $4,000 Trash Can

Since January 1st, the federal government has imposed $56.6 billion in compliance costs.


According to conventional progressive wisdom, regulation is the means by which a compassionate government protects the weak and innocent from the strong and malevolent.  

Try telling that to Brad Jones.

Jones is one of the owners of Buckingham Slate, a Virginia business a little over an hour's drive west of Richmond. The company is distinguished by the quality of the highly valued Arvonia slate it produces. And by the fact that its roots trace back almost to the Civil War. And by the fact that federal regulators smacked it with a $4,000 fine.

Over a trash can.

The offending can—or "waste receptacle," in the words of the Mine Safety and Health Administration's official citation—was "not covered." What's more, "the receptacle was full." It "could be smelled." There were—brace yourself—"flies fl[y]ing in and around the receptacle." And to crown all, "management engaged in aggravated conduct constituting more than ordinary negligence" by allowing this "condition to exist." The horror.

Buckingham Slate has racked up other fines, too—such as a $70,000 fine imposed because one of its trucks had an inoperable horn. Perhaps regulators were following the approach advocated by Al Armendariz, the former EPA official who said enforcers should "crucify" offenders to "make an example" of them, which would then make others "easy to manage."

According to President Obama's campaign rhetoric, Republicans have nothing to offer but "the same prescription they've had for the last 30 years…: 'Feel a cold coming on? Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call us in the morning!'"

Funny stuff. But Martha Boneta isn't laughing. 

Boneta, a Fauquier County farmer, hosted a birthday party for eight 10-year-old girls—an occasion for which she lacked the proper "events permit." For this, the county slammed her with a $5,000 fine. She also got in hot water for selling items, such as yarn and birdhouses, that she had not made herself. 

Outraged over how the county was treating her, local farmers showed up at a zoning-board meeting a couple of months ago with pitchforks in hand. But the demonstration was only so useful. She ended up closing her shop anyway. 

Americans should place more trust in "the guiding hand of government," according to the president and his supporters.

But try telling that to Nathan Hammock and his family. The Hammocks own a dairy farm Museville, Virginia. Because of drought, they wanted to put an irrigation pond on their property. They eventually managed to—after three years trying to get permission from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers. "I think we've spent close to $30,000" in the process, Hammock says. 

Hammock made the comment in a video you can find on the website of Rep. Robert Hurt (go to and click on "Videos"). Hurt, who represents Virginia's Fifth District, has introduced legislation to let farmers farm without having to navigate a "tremendous bureaucratic maze." It is moving through Congress—slowly. 

The plural of anecdote, of course, is not data. So here are some data: In its first three years the Obama administration imposed more than 100 economically significant regulations—those costing $100 million or more. That's roughly four times as many as the Bush administration did during a similar period, according to the conservative Heritage Foundation. 

Liberal outfits insist Heritage is wrong. But even by their Obama-friendly accounting, the current president has been issuing major rules at a rate 24 percent faster than Bush. Despite the lip service he often pays to the free market, the president has overseen massive regulatory expansions. See, e.g., the banking industry; vehicle mileage standards; Obamacare's seemingly endless new rules; carbon emission limits on coal-fired power plants; energy-efficiency standards for home appliances; and dozens more.

According to a report by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, "The published regulatory burden for 2012 [alone] could exceed $105 billion…. Since January 1st, the federal government has imposed $56.6 billion in compliance costs and more than 114 million annual paperwork burden hours."

Ask Jones about paperwork. Buckingham Slate is overseen by an alphabet soup of federal and state agencies, and "each one of them wants something from us all the time that is costing us money"—spill-prevention plans that require hiring an engineer; pre-shift inspections; dust monitoring; and more. Jones estimates that five of his 45 employees spend 20 percent of their time simply filling out paperwork.

Of course we need regulation. It helps keep our food safe to eat and our air safe to breathe. Companies shouldn't be able to shift the costs of production onto the public by dumping pollutants into the environment. Everybody agrees with that. The real question is: At what point does regulation go too far? 

"If you're a small operator, they're just putting you out of business," says Jones. "It doesn't matter that we can compete globally…. Sooner or later, that kind of regulation is going to shut you down."

NEXT: Teachers Who Had Sex With 17 Year-Old Given Probation

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  1. This is how government creates jobs and stimulates the economy.

  2. Not a fan of food regulations either. It’s all the same intrusive, haphazard, burdensome bullshit.

    1. People forget that USDA meat inspections started because of a fictional novel, Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, not actual problems. And they took him too literally. He was trying to comment on capitalism BTW, not the food industry.

  3. People need to stop asking permission. Then if discovered and fined, demand trial by jury.

    1. Usually they’ll say that these are civil offenses and then totally screw you out of a jury trial.

  4. I’m not reading this. I’m not reading about another poor fuck getting ass-raped by mindless, heartless, faceless bureaucrats.

    1. Go ahead and read it!

      You get four poor fucks getting ass-raped for the price of one!

      1. This is like ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ for a government regulator.

  5. The process is working!

  6. Only a plutocrat would think charging somebody $4000 for a trash can is not reasonable! /Tony logic

    1. Is that guy still a thing?

  7. How long before people start murdering regulators? How much longer after that before juries refuse to convict them?

    1. But whom would one attack? When you get the argle bargle filled legal papers by certifed mail – laying waste to your life’s work, do you attack the USPS delvery person? The EPA and their ilk are a faceless horde of General Schedule employees in generic buidlings. Kind of like the DoD without the odd geometroic building and nifty uniforms.

      1. Some retard with a clipboard has to show up and poke their nose around to find the trash can or inoperable horn to use as an excuse to shut them down.

      2. The greasy looking couple wandering your plant with clipboards and government ID would be a good place to start.

    2. Stuart Alexander, June 2000, took out a couple of Dept of Ag inspectors.

    3. “Resistance to the whiskey tax stretched from Western Pennsylvania, through the western frontiers of Virginia, Kentucky, and the Carolinas, with most farmers believing that a government which played little part in their frontier life had no right to “steal” money that they themselves had earned. When the tax collectors came around, these pioneer farmers refused to pay. Over the next three years, farmers who tried to obey the law were ridiculed; tax collectors were tarred and feathered; government officials were threatened; and mail delivery was disrupted. Public protests and riots further disrupted peace in the region.”

      1. And Washington showed up with the Army and that was that, yes?

  8. “Americans should place more trust in “the guiding hand of government,” according to the president and his supporters.”

    Americans should do their best to insure that every time the “Guiding hand of government” intrudes in their lives, the Government pulls back a bloody stump.

  9. I love the people demanding trial by jury on here. It exposes the real issue: regulations are not adjudicated in a courtroom but are imposed at the discretion of the department issuing them. They are not passed as legislation, so lawmakers can deny their involvement in allowing them. They carry the full force and weight of the civil laws in this country, but the ruling class can criticize them and garner support from their constituents, yet make no move to roll back the authority of the departments issuing them.

    1. The flaw in your plan is that the government that issues and enforces the regulations is the same government that runs the courts.

  10. Bets on when they’ll start requiring permits to take a shit?

    1. That shit – you didn’t take that. Someone else made that log.

      1. Thank you. You’ve made my day.

  11. it’s best not to ask for permission – just do it. That generally works in the country, but not so much on the lake shore where one can be reported damaging ‘critical dunes’.

    1. “Hm. I see this was built without a permit. You’re going to have to tear it down before I allow you to sell it.”

      1. Offer half the fine as a bribe.

    2. One of my clients went to jail for building without a permit and then refusing to file for an as-built permit. Got lawyers involved and everything. Government always wins unless your prepared to go that extra mile, which of course means you taking up arms and then dying for. Then the news will proclaim another crazy GOP’er went off the deep end.

  12. Buckingham Slate is overseen by an alphabet soup of federal and state agencies, and “each one of them wants something from us all the time that is costing us money”?spill-prevention plans that require hiring an engineer; pre-shift inspections; dust monitoring; and more. Jones estimates that five of his 45 employees spend 20 percent of their time simply filling out paperwork.


    1. Side note: I hate how -nobody- has even tried to make the argument that the jobs the government “creates” really destroy wealth rather than create it.



      3. Roads and bridges destroy wealth?

        Do you want to live in Somalia?

        1. Do you want to live in Somalia?

          At this point, maybe.

          1. The subdivision I live in built it’s own roads and water supply and when it snows we dig ourselves out. Our roads have few pot holes and when they do there repaired within a year. If I had the money I’d also install my own solar panel electrical system.

          2. The majority of public roads were paid for with private money. Look it up.

  13. If you bring up a story like this to a forum or message board full of liberals, they’ll say “deal with it, that’s the cost of doing business. If you can’t comply with perfectly sensible regulations then you shouldn’t be in business. Oh no, poor baby. You can’t keep your huge plumes of dust from giving little Suzy lung cancer, then shut your business down. Otherwise eat your peas and shut up.” And they feel that this is perfectly reasonable. Every time.

  14. The problem is that government has taken to using ‘fines’ as a source of income and a hidden tax, much like the ‘red light cameras’ that have long since dropped their facade as promoting driver safety. There only useful purpose is for income for the red light vendors and greedy city politicians. I could cite many more examples, but it’s depressing.
    And concerning flies around a trash can…….”Oh, the humanity!”
    I feel so much healthier and safer now. Thanks Big Brother.

  15. Serious question: How are carbon emissions controls on a coal-fired plant supposed to work? Seems the only way they could diminish their percentage of carbon emitted as gas would be to capture it in lime or some such and then dispose of the chalk. Or is it supposed to work by offsets, where they have to pay someone to plant long-lived plants such as trees somewhere? Or is it something really stupid like a ceiling on how much a single plant can emit, making the industry scatter into smaller coal burners that individually come under the limit? Or is it something reeaaallllly stupid like making them burn extremely high sulfur coal so a pinch less carbon is emitted per BTU?

    1. Heh…and if the answer is lime, then how are they going to get lime? By cooking the CO2 off limestone, of course!

  16. OT: Check out the comments on this story. What a buncha fucking boners.

    N.H. Group Says People, Not Taxes, Should Help Needy

    1. This one is a REAL gem:

      It’s all well and good that some people come together once or twice a year to help those that are in need. (I do know many of you help all year long so please don’t jump on that.) What about the rest of the year? We need social welfare programs for the poor and needy. Until our country finds a way to make sure that ALL are handed an equal playing field through proper education and surrounding environmental comfort, we are obligated to continue to help through the existing programs. So quit your honking and pay your taxes and be happy that we have a country that is dedicated to helping those in need. What are you going to do Mike Ruff? Pull out your pistol and shoot the first one who doesn’t agree with you. Are you and the likes of you going to run my country? NO THANKS! I’ll take big government until we can all come together, get that “TOGETHER”, and seek out other solutions. Biggest thing that could possibly happen: Equal education for all, of the highest quality, not what we don’t want you to learn but learn everything you can and always question so you go on to explore.

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