Hair Braiding Hero

John STossel reports:

Every once in a while, people in Washington have a good idea. A really good idea. An idea that creates jobs and provides a service people like.

Then, the government gets involved.

Some years ago, a married couple, Taalib-Din Uqdah and Pamela Farrell, went into business braiding hair, African-style. They called their shop Cornrows & Co. If politicians’ speeches are right, Uqdah and Farrell were heroes: Inner cities need businesses, and the couple had built a booming business in Washington, D.C. They had 20,000 customers, employed 10 people and took in half a million dollars a year. Some women came from as far away as Connecticut, six hours away, to have their hair braided by Cornrows & Co.

Did the politicians honor these entrepreneurs for contributing to the community? Find ways to encourage others to do similar things? Well, the government did respond. But it wasn’t with encouragement.”

Uqdah did not have a license from a beauty school, so local government officials threatened to shut him down unless he spent a thousand hours and a few thousand dollars going to a beauty school- which didn’t teach anything about the things Uqdah and his wife actually did in their business.
Most people in Uqdah’s position simply give up the fight, comply, or shut down and walk away. It’s not worth the hassle, they think. But Uqdah didn’t think like that, and I’m glad.

“Uqdah refused to close his shop. He fought the government instead, ultimately going to federal court with the help of the Institute for Justice, a libertarian law firm, and D.C. changed its law. Now, hair braiders don’t have to get training that has nothing to do with what they do. Uqdah says, “I had to spend 10 years fighting the city. And now I’ve gone out and created a mechanism that other people can do what I’ve done — with or without a license.”

I agree with John Stossel when he says,

Usually, the established businesses get away with using licensing boards and “safety” regulations to crush competitors. That’s unfair. And if the question is who’s protecting the public, it seems to me Taalib-Din Uqdah has done much more than the bureaucrats who wanted him to spend 125 hours studying shampooing.

And that’s why I say Ugday is a hero.

More here (“How can you license what you do not teach,” he asks. And the Judge agrees with him, although he also warns that if hair braiders “branch into too many “cosmetology-like tasks”–including “shampooing hair” with too many “cosmetology-like instruments,” such as “combs”–the state would be well within its rights to send them off to beauty school”)

And this chapter from an economic textbook (written before the case concluded) asks some interesting questions about the case.

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Do Food stamps make you fat?

A Middle Tennesee State University professor has been awarded a grant to study the matter. According to an online Tennessean news article:

MURFREESBORO — Charles Baum III, an economics professor at Middle Tennessee State University, says people living in poverty in America have undergone a definite physical change over the last 200 years.

Being poor once meant having a thin, frail body type as a result of lack of food. Now, these individuals are more likely to be not just overweight, but obese, he says.

Baum traces the change to sometime in the 1960s, when obesity rates began to rise. It was around this time that the Food Stamp Act came into being, which provided food to those living below the poverty level. The idea of a connection between food stamps and obesity has caught the interest of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the agency recently awarded Baum a $120,000 grant to study the relationship of the Food Stamp Program to the rise of obesity.

Being poor in America is fattening. I suspect there are more causes than simply the food stamp connection, although it probably does contribute. It costs more to eat a diet of fresh fruit, vegetables, and meats than it does to eat things like like biscuits, potatoes, white rice, pasta, and other starchy, high carb items. Canned products are the least nutritious but often the least expensive (and the easiest to fix, as well as the most tasteless).

When did American Food manufacturers begin adding corn syrup to just about everything, even foods you would not think are sweetened? One of our children has a mild but unpleasant reaction to eating corn products, so we at The Common Room must read labels assiduously. Foods containing corn syrup have included some or all brands of ketchup, lunch meat, hams, tomato products of all sorts, granola bars, cereals, salad dressings, vitamins, cough syrups, soups, gelatins, jams, canned fruits, seasoning mixtures for stir fries, and more.

Before the 1960’s were the poor more likely to have a garden? Were they less likely to have a vehicle (so they had to walk more)? According to a 1990 Heritage Foundation report:

Among America’s “poor” there are 344 cars per 1,000 persons.16 This is roughly the same ratio as exists for the total population of the United Kingdom. A poor American is 40 percent more likely to own a car than the average Japanese; 30 times more likely than the average Pole; and 50 times more likely than the average Mexican.17

By 1961, I understand that many more households in AMerica had television than had indoor plumbing. In fact, though the gap has narrowed considerably, this still appears to be true. What kind of effect does an overdependence on television have on all of us, not just the poor?

Currently there are no restrictions on what foods a food stamp recipient may buy- except that alcoholic beverages may not be purchased. Otherwise, candy, gum, soda pop, convenience foods of all sorts, chips, cakes, jams, and so on can be purchased using food stamps.

At least some offices provide nutritional counseling, but I believe this is on a volunteer basis, since the article in the Tennesse paper states that nutritional classes are ‘offered’ to recipients. It’s long been my belief that food stamp recipients should be required to take classes teaching basic cooking skills and nutritional information, and even to submit menus and shopping lists to teachers in the domestic arts who can help them learn to stretch their food dollars and shop more wisely.

Professor Baum

“speculated that if a link is shown between issuing food stamps and obesity, the USDA might become stricter in its definition of food items, eliminating unhealthy choices such as sodas.”

He’s getting 150,000 dollars from the U.S.D.A. to fund his research.

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California really is the land of fruits and nuts

The Headmaster was born and raised in southern California. He never left the state until he was a married father of one. The Headmaster and Headmistress met and married in central California. This study comes as no great surprise to us, but still, the Department of the Obvious doesn’t want to be completely ignored, so we bring you:

California turns out to be so, like … so… California

63 percent of Californians have actually hugged a tree; 24 percent have surfed; and 21 percent admit to enjoying mud baths.

“It turns out that Californians actually do a lot of the things that make up the stereotype,” says Mr. Tootelian.

Granted, regional distinctions can be found in every corner of the land. Many New Englanders do exude a certain Yankee reserve and thriftiness, which is rooted in the puritanism of the past. Southerners do convey a distinctive charm, and Midwesterners, well, they’re Midwesterners [Ouch!].

The Deputy Headmistress has never surfed herself, although she has had friends and close relatives who surf and surf very well indeed.

She has also, she admits, hugged trees, though Not In That Way.

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Walmart, Maryland, Healthcare

Full article here.

Maryland lawmakers yesterday approved legislation that would effectively require Wal-Mart to boost spending on health care, a direct legislative thrust against a corporate giant that is already on the defensive on many fronts nationwide…

…Lawmakers said they did not set out to single out Wal-Mart when they drafted a bill requiring organizations with more than 10,000 employees to spend at least 8 percent of their payroll on health benefits — or put the money directly into the state’s health program for the poor.

But as debate raged in the Senate yesterday, it was clear that the giant retailer, which has 15,000 workers in Maryland, was the only company that would be affected.

For an alternative view of how excessive regulation harms us all, see here.

Regulation routinely imposes harms that even the most intelligent reformer cannot foresee. Interventionists, as Ludwig von Mises argued in Critique of Interventionism, are “seriously deluded regarding the extent of the productivity loss caused by government interventions.”

…Take the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which Congress established in 1970. OSHA’s mandate was to assure for all workers safe and healthful working conditions “by encouraging employers and employees in their efforts to reduce the number of occupational safety and health hazards at their places of employment.”

Yet, unsurprisingly, OSHA’s 30-year record has been marred by failure. According to a regulatory analysis performed by the Cato Institute, while OSHA supporters cite evidence attesting to the agency’s effectiveness, “the vast majority of studies has found no statistically significant reduction in the rate of workplace fatalities or injuries due to OSHA.”[4] Interventionists are hard-pressed to maintain that OSHA meets even the minimum criterion for any government program: Does it have any desirable effect on the problem it is supposed to solve?

Worse, OSHA’s failure has been bad for business. A 1995 study by the Employment Policy Foundation found that 19 percent of the productivity slowdown in the 1970s was directly attributable to regulations imposed by OSHA and that nearly half of the slowdown in long-term productivity can be explained by rising government regulatory activity…

…the 69,684-page Federal Register. It is rife with rules and restrictions that alter the way entrepreneurs act in the marketplace. Its mandates are costly, redundant, and ultimately destructive of the market forces that create prosperity for everyone. Yet it continues to grow. But as history has amply shown, it is free markets, not government regulation, that make us better off. Would that the interventionists could learn this most simple of lessons.

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Cookie Jar Game UPdate

Looks like a Republican stole a cookie from the cookie jar after all (see previous post here). Read all about it at Powerline.

Mel Martinez, Florida Freshman Senator, says:

“…he discovered Wednesday that the memo had been written by an aide in his office. “It is with profound disappointment and regret that I learned today that a senior member of my staff was unilaterally responsible for this document,” Martinez said.”

That staff member has resigned.

In a truly embarrassing state of affairs, Martinez says that he himself handed the memo to Harkin, not realizing what was in his pocket. How do these guys get elected?

Martinez, in his statement, said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, had asked for background information on the bill ordering a federal court to review the Schiavo case.

He said he pulled a one-page document from his coat pocket and handed to Harkin. “Unbeknownst to me … I had given him a copy of the now infamous memo.”

He said Harkin had called him earlier Wednesday to say he believes the memo had been given to him by Martinez. The Florida senator said he then ordered an internal investigation in his office.

Powerline points out that this latest story is still different in several important particulars from the previous versions reported by the press, particularly those versions where the press

“attributed the “talking points memo” to “Republican officials” and “party leaders…”

Nonetheless, it is my view that this is a story that does no one any credit, and I must excuse myself to go and wash the egg from my face.

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