Come on in — the water’s fi-aaaiiiiiiiieeeeee!!!!

You’d have to be a pretty cold-hearted SOB to take a horrible tragedy and use it as a lesson in economics and government stupidity.

At your service.

The local YMCA just avoided having its pool closed by committing to install $20-30,000 of equipment to comply with the “Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act.”  It’s named after a seven-year-old who was trapped and drowned in the suction from a spa drain.

Unfortunately, Virginia was the granddaughter of Secretary of State James Baker III.  So instead of just a cautionary tale for parents, we got a law that misses the mark while adding thousands of dollars of costs to outfits like the YMCA.  Which doesn’t even have the type of drain that creates this hazard.

As reported, this regulation affects around 500 public pools in Illinois.  If the other 499 public pools in Illinois had to spend similar amounts, that’s over $10 million for Illinois.  Rough that out over 50 states, and you’re nearing half a billion dollars.

I know — heartless.  After all, how many lives will be saved because of our beneficent federal officials looking out for us?

Fair question.  Maybe someone should’ve asked.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, from 1999-2010, twelve people died in this kind of accident.  However, only four were in public pools.  Private facilities — like the one Virginia Graeme Baker drowned in — aren’t covered by the bill.

Is it really a good idea to allocate half a billion dollars to maybe prevent one death every three or four years?  What if we spent $5 each on warning signs, and the rest on guardrails or mammograms instead?

Resources are finite.  Since they insist on deciding how they’ll be used instead of us, perhaps we should start holding the politicians accountable for them for a change.

Do it for your grandchildren.


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2 Responses to Come on in — the water’s fi-aaaiiiiiiiieeeeee!!!!

  1. Janaleen says:

    What are your thoughts on Warren Buffet’s ‘stop coddling the rich’ and the resulting jobs bill from Obama?

    I’ve had mixed emotions on Buffet since way before his current cheerleading for higher taxes.

    He is of course an investing powerhouse. He’s pretty much a straight fundamentals guy — he doesn’t buy a stock unless he has a deep understanding of the company’s business and long-term prospects, perceives that it’s very undervalued, and is confident in the management team. Also, unlike you or I deciding to maybe buy a couple of shares Pepsi, he tends to buy entire companies.

    I doubt anybody in the world can outwork him and his team when it comes to researching a company. When he makes occasional bad calls he also has the unmitigated audacity to admit it loudly, clearly and straight up, explaining where and how he erred and what lessons he’d learned. His annual financial reports (Berkshire Hathaway) should be mandatory reading for anyone even thinking of investing or a financial career.

    (In particular, his explanation of derivatives in his 2002 report are proof that every single banker, regulator, and auditor involved in the financial meltdown ought to be doing hard time. For hubris if nothing else. Here’s the opening line on that section — “I view derivatives as time bombs, both for the parties that deal in them and the economic system.” If Warren Buffet says that in 2002, and you’re still signing off on financial statements for companies holding them in 2003, you’re too arrogant not to be a danger to yourself and society.)

    That’s his good points.

    On the flip side, he operates, like his buddy Bill Gates, in a rarefied atmosphere where he’ll always be a billionaire no matter what he does. His main problem as an investor is that he has too much money and it limits him to very big plays. His main vice appears to be loving to play bridge.

    As wired in as he is to everything financial, I think he’s lost touch with what entrepreneurs are faced with in America today. Sure, the entire railroad company he just bought might be inconvenienced with another OSHA reg, or his insurance company will have to add a few more compliance people to handle the new Dodd-Frank monstrosity. These things may be irritants to companies of the size he works with, but they’re killers to small nimble businesses trying to get off the ground and compete. Actually, more regulations help Big Business because they become barriers to entry for smaller competition.

    Someone else whose investing prowess I admire greatly pointed out once that the way Buffet made most of his first several millions back in the 1950’s and 60’s– deep research, personal contacts, talking to workers, etc — would now get you thrown in jail for “insider trading.”

    And so now he sees nothing wrong with more government and paying more taxes. Well of course not — it’s not going to affect his lifestyle, all of his money is in trust funds set up to go to charity, and his kids are already set. When he looks around at all of his buddies (i.e., Bill Gates), it seems they could do with a few less million.

    At its base Buffet is a financial genius, but he doesn’t really know much about economics. He knows college economics. He knows Big Government economics. He knows economics that works for GE and Big Pharma and Wells Fargo. But he doesn’t comprehend real economics any more than Obama or Congress or the IMF or the Federal Reserve.

    So I agree with the general response that Mr. Buffet should exercise his right to cut as big a check as he feels is fair to the U.S. treasury, but leave the rest of us alone…

    The jobs bill was of course never going to pass. The Democrats wouldn’t have voted for it. I thought it was a riot that after the Obama team ran around making (campaign) speeches calling out the Republicans to “pass this bill!”, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) called for an immediate vote. The Obama team then roundly condemned McConnell as using a cynical political ploy by offering to do exactly what Obama asked for. You couldn’t make this stuff up.


  2. Jonathan says:

    If it was my daughter I’d say you can put a price even on one life. But then again, if it was my daughter, I would have been keeping a close eye on her while she was somewhere dangerous like water, I would made sure it was a big media event, and sued the crap out of the resort; same effect, less government.

    If it was my daughter (or, at this point, granddaughter) I would spare nothing either. The question is, should I be able to force everyone else to expend unlimited resources because something might/did happen to someone I love? The number of possibly bad things that could maybe possibly happen someday to someone somewhere is of course infinite. Resources are not.

    The girl the act is named after died in a neighbor’s spa despite 3 adults trying to free her — there doesn’t seem to be any parental negligence and it wasn’t an evil business owner cutting corners on maintenance. I guess no one thought of or was able to turn the spa pump off. It was a tragedy.

    AS I alluded to, once the government jumps in to “fix” things, reality and cost/benefit are off the table. The local YMCA doesn’t have the type of drain that creates the suction hazard, but they still had to spend $25,000 to install equipment they don’t need. Of the facilities with these systems, there is a simple low-cost grate that would fit over the drain and eliminate the hazard, but the bill also required an expensive redundant system.

    After all, when you’re spending someone else’s money, price is no object.


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