Viva le Protectionism

Ten years ago – stop me if you remember this – the Army re-jiggered its uniform slightly, a move that is mostly forgettable except for “Beretgate” – the brouhaha over military headgear being made in China. It was a purely political ploy motivated by nothing but stupidity and ideology.

Why am I bringing this up now, a decade later? Well, the Star Tribune has an article on a retarded state law that requires public agencies to source uniforms and protective equipment that are made in the United States.

To be honest, I’m surprised public-safety organizations weren’t – aren’t – in an uproar over that, since they tend to be a bit OCD about protective equipment, in particular, and because the financial burden is, in some instances, quite substantial.

Than again, there’s no specified enforcement method, nor penalty, so what anyone was thinking is, well, anybody’s guess.

At the RNC protests in September 2008, I noticed a lot of Minnesota law-enforcement agencies using gas masks from Avon, Scott, SEA, and Draeger; those are all made overseas – in Europe, to be precise – and not inexpensively. Ah, well; they’re only two or three years old, but time to buy American ones, at a cost of several hundred bucks per officer. Scott, it should be noted, also manufacture some very popular SCBA setups for firefighters, made in Finland and used by fire departments for decades. Sorry, hose jockeys; can’t have those anymore, got to buy American. Oh well, only a couple thousand dollars per firefighter.

Amusingly, the main opposition to the law, a year after it was passed, seems to be from conservatives, who view it as an unfunded mandate and a financial burden on local governments. Go figure, huh?

What I find most incomprehensible about this whole thing is that Minnesota derives basically zero benefit from this law. None. As far as I’m aware, there’s a single Minnesota company that produces uniform or protective equipment for public agencies – Maplewood-based 3M, who make a couple models of gas masks and respirators. The odds of any Minnesota agencies switching to these, which cost more than $100 each more than the equivalent model from Pennsylvania-based MSA? Slim to none. Everything else is made out-of-state, and even if it’s sold locally – which is the case for most uniforms, for example – clothing isn’t taxed in Minnesota.

Just like the deal with the military a decade ago, this is a retarded bit of mis-placed protectionism driven by stupidity and ideology.

Who benefits? Blauer, in Boston. Who loses? Every public agency in Minnesota, directly, and every resident of the state, indirectly, who would have been better served if the money being wasted as a result of this idiocy were spent elsewhere.

Ah, well. I’m sure the politicians meant well.

Published in: 'D' for 'Dumb', Security | on March 7th, 2011| Comments Off on Viva le Protectionism

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