- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 18, 2006

In yet another Republican contribution to limited government, a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee has recommended a ban on Primatene Mist, an over-the-counter asthma spray propelled by chlorofluorocarbons, long considered injurious to the ozone layer.

The ozone-friendly FDA suggests using CFC-free prescription asthma nebulizers. That’s swell, unless you lack health insurance, pharmaceutical coverage, or time to see a doctor — or need asthma relief right now.

Primatene is perfect for emergencies. I once suffered an asthma attack while visiting friends in lovely but secluded Bucks County, Pa. That weekend, I happened to forget my prescription inhaler. Rather than visit a pricey hospital emergency room or locate and waken a doctor to write a prescription at 11 p.m., I had my friends drive me to a drug store where I bought some Primatene for about $12. Yes, I did inhale. And I felt much better.

Now, the Bush administration wants to deny asthmatics that freedom, choice and comfort. If Primatene’s 3 million customers routinely emptied their atomizers into the air, this restriction might be ecologically sound. However, as Heritage Foundation senior policy analyst Ben Lieberman, says: “The amounts of CFCs used in these inhalers is so small, it makes sense to exempt them for several more years until comparable alternatives are available.”

“This is a good issue for anyone who favors equal access to affordable health care,” says Paul Driessen, my Atlas Foundation colleague and a senior policy adviser to the Congress of Racial Equality. “This asinine rule would hit poor people hardest, resulting in more frequent, serious, and fatal attacks for them than for upper-crust people, like those who walk the halls of the FDA.” Alas, this proposed rule is not alone.

While Republicans deserve credit for cutting taxes, they have earned brickbats on spending. The federal budget goes up, up, and away, like a not-so-beautiful balloon. So does regulation.

“This growth in spending naturally means a growth in the regulatory state,” says Clyde Wayne Crews, Competitive Enterprise Institute vice president for policy. He notes the regulation-rich Federal Register has expanded under President Bush from 64,438 pages in 2001 to 73,870 pages in 2005, a 14.6 percent increase. A new Small Business Administration study finds federal regulations steer a $1 trillion annual headwind into America’s economy.

And the new rules keep coming. The Federal Communications Commission now wants to impose on cable TV companies something Washington never would force upon restaurants.

Consider: I hate pickles. Everyone at my local diner knows to keep them far from anything I order. However, it never occurred to me to ask them to deduct pickles from my bill.

Why, then, should the FCC order Time-Warner to subtract the cost of Lifetime Television from my cable-TV package just because I don’t watch it?

This is called “a la carte pricing.” As customers gravitate toward bigger channels, this idea could jeopardize smaller channels now added to today’s packages. Cable companies should be free, but not compelled, to offer such options.

The FCC has outlived its role as sheriff of the three-network town that predated TiVo. Now that people can choose from among broadcast, cable, DVDs, Internet streaming video, satellites, or silence, Uncle Sam should hand back the remote control and ride into the sunset.

On deregulation, the GOP can redeem itself somewhat by revisiting an issue it dropped in 2001. Mandated under the 1992 Energy Policy Act signed by the elder President Bush, 1.6-gallon low-flow toilets have annoyed Americans who prefer the one-flush power of 3-gallon traditional toilets. Despite their superior performance, the old toilets are illegal. America now boasts a black market in classic commodes.

Despite ample histrionics during the so-called “Republican Revolution,” a bill by Rep. Joe Knollenberg, Michigan Republican, to repeal the low-flow law languished in committee. This election year, roll call votes to repeal this regulation should tell Americans whether their senators and representatives favor toilet freedom or toilet socialism.

Uncle Sam should retreat from asthmatics’ lungs, viewers’ cable boxes, and everyone’s toilets. That should give public servants in Washington more time to track and kill terrorists.

Deroy Murdock is a columnist with Scripps Howard News Service and a senior fellow with the Atlas Economic Research Foundation in Fairfax, Va.

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