"It's the piano teachers, stupid!" ....
WSJ columnist Kim Strassel's delicious "Piano Sonata in FTC Minor" column documents regulatory zeal ran amok:
In March of this year, a small nonprofit in Cincinnati—the Music Teachers National Association—received a letter from the FTC. The agency was investigating whether the association was engaged in, uh, anticompetitive practices.
This was bizarre, given that the MTNA has existed since 1876 solely to advance the cause of music study and support music teachers. The 501(c)(3) has about 22,000 members, nearly 90% of them piano teachers, including many women who earn a modest living giving lessons in their homes. The group promotes music study and competitions and helps train teachers. Not exactly U.S. Steel.
The association's sin, according to the feds, rested in its code of ethics. The code lays out ideals for members to follow—a commitment to students, colleagues, society. Tucked into this worthy document was a provision calling on teachers to respect their colleagues' studios, and not actively recruit students from other teachers.
That's a common enough provision among professional organizations (doctors, lawyers), yet the FTC avers that the suggestion that Miss Sally not poach students from Miss Lucy was an attempt to raise prices for piano lessons. Given that the average lesson runs around $30 an hour, and that some devoted teachers still give lessons for $5 a pop, this is patently absurd.
Strassel notes that not a single violation was even alleged by the FTC, and that the FTC's authority over non-profit associations is limited to instances of fraud, not alleged here. Yet the agency imposed a Draconian remedy:
The FTC didn't care....Nor was the agency moved by the group's offer to immediately excise the provision. The investigation would continue.
With a dozen employees and a $2 million budget, the group doesn't have "the resources to fight the federal government," Mr. Ingle says. The board immediately removed the provision from its code, but the MTNA staff still had to devote months compiling thousands of documents demanded by the agency, some going back 20 years: reports, the organization's magazines, everything Mr. Ingle had ever written that touched on the code. Mr. Ingle estimates he has spent "hundreds upon hundreds" of hours since March complying with this federal colonoscopy.
This October, MTNA signed a consent decree—its contents as ludicrous as the investigation. The association did not have to admit or deny guilt. It must, however, read a statement out loud at every future national MTNA event warning members against talking about prices or recruitment. It must send this statement to all 22,000 members and post it on its website. It must contact all of its 500-plus affiliates and get them to sign a compliance statement.
SO: Forget about Iran's quest for a nuclear weapon! Ignore China's aggressive moves in the western Pacific! Worry not about Russia's intimidation of and grasp for Ukraine! Forget about ObamaCare's train-wreck roll-out and impending destruction of private health insurance! As our national debt tops $17 trillion, lose no sleep!
At all costs, America's piano teachers MUST be stopped!!!
Bottom Line. Worship at the altar of Big Government, and you will find yourself shoved around by Big Bureaucracy. Or as the late Senator Barry Goldwater once put it, the government that is big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take it all away.
Letter from the Capitol, LFTC, Economy, Conservative Politics