This is being written during the fifth day of the U.S. Federal government shutdown and our politicians are at 110 percent of N1 political spin mode. My personal politics are somewhat to the right of Attila the Hun, but I hope that my prejudice does not seep into this message. A political pundit stated the other day that “I do not understand the political right’s (conservative) complaint that the U.S. government is too big, after all the number of U.S. federal workers has dropped over the last few years.”
When I first heard that, my inherent prejudice about the size and scope of government caused me to say No Way. Upon looking at the stats available on some government and other websites, a reasonable person would not argue the point. Then I looked at the number of regulations written that will have an economic impact worth more than $100 million. Sure enough, that figure has been on the rise over the last five years. But, is that really causing the feeling in the country that the federal government is too big, or is it something else? So I thought about the helicopter community. Most of us would assume that the helicopter community is more conservative than the general population. Certainly there is a liberal element, but that viewpoint is not widely expressed. So what would cause this culture to adopt a more conservative viewpoint? I think I know the answer. When a person decides that helicopters will be their life’s work, whether as an engineer, technician or pilot, they understand that people’s lives – including their own – will be affected by their competency. So we share a culture of like-minded people who believe in themselves and accept the responsibility of our work product being safe, not only for ourselves but others as well.
So if my fellow travelers in the helicopter world live in a fairly competent world, what is it that is causing the consternation among us? Number one, we are not being governed well at all. I think the clearest example of this is the abrogation of the U.S. Congress in its responsibility to pass laws that are well written and do what they are intended to do. What I see is that Congress is shirking the hard work of understanding the issues and instead they are passing a framework or general notion of what the law should be. Then with Congressional blessings, the federal bureaucrats are actually writing the detail of the law and we all know the devil is in the details. At some level, relying on subject manner experts within the federal bureaucracy to have input on rules and regulations is an appropriate solution. We passed appropriate a long time ago. The legislators from both sides have neglected their responsibilities and the regulators are working in a vacuum. Unfortunately, it appears to me that in this vacuum, the worst kind of power-hungry bureaucrats at all levels realize that this vacuum will let them get away with whatever their agenda is, and off they go.
Some examples: a good friend of mine owns a company that provides heavy equipment to coal mining operations, bulldozers and earthmovers, etc. An EPA inspector found a can of WD40 where the markings on the can wore off from rolling around in a toolbox in the service unit for the heavy equipment. He closed the mine down.
Another friend is an FAA Designated Engineering Representative (DER). He recently submitted a proposed modification to his local FAA Aircraft Certification Office (ACO) to include a currently produced Mil-Spec wiring harness for the purposes of the modification. He was ordered to conduct a burn test on a harness. I repeat, this is a harness with a Mil-Spec cert that is used for another similar application in production aircraft.
The list goes on, there are many better examples of plain stupidity within the federal and state bureaucracy. The purpose of this column is to encourage all of us not to get mad at the regulator. Next time you see this kind of stupidity, write your legislator at the appropriate level and tell him or her that this is a symptom of their work product and that you will be supporting candidates that understand the need to stop the slide toward being ruled by unelected bureaucrats rather than our elected representatives.