The fact that politics makes strange bedfellows is well known, but in the think tank world you’re supposed to be principled, not hop into bed with your ideological opponent. Still, it happens from time to time, on the rare occasion you have common ground with them. Yet other times it remains inexplicable as to why, say, a conservative group would crawl under the sheets with someone like Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Warren, the progressive hero, has introduced the “Over The Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017.” Upon first hearing the name of the bill you may ask yourself, “Why is the federal government involved in hearing aids? Don’t they have better things to do?”
The answer, obviously, is yes. But that’s never stopped government before.
As described by a coalition of conservative groups, “Sen. Warren’s bill expands the power of federal bureaucrats, eliminates state authority, and reduces consumer access to amplification devices by making them more expensive and highly regulated.”
In other words, under the guise of more freedom, Warren is offering a Trojan Horse for centralized control of a little bit more of our lives.
That’s not surprising, that’s what she lives for. What is surprising is how anyone on the right would fall for it. What’s even more surprising is how, knowing it’s Elizabeth Warren, those on the right who’d fallen for it then hopped into bed with her and support her bill.
I was surprised to see two free-market think tanks come out in support of the “Over The Counter Hearing Aid Act.” The Niskanen Center and the R Street Institute wrote a joint letter in support of Warren’s bill.
In their joint letter, they write about “personal amplification products” or PSAPs, as they call them. These are over the counter hearing aids that can’t be sold as hearing aids because hearing aids can only be called hearing aids if they’re prescribed by a doctor. Basically, those things you see ads for on late-night TV.
The groups write, “Due to the high cost of existing hearing aids, the hearing impaired often resort to purchasing so- called “personal sound amplification products” (PSAP), cheaper OTC alternatives intended for non-hearing impaired consumers. The quality of PSAPs vary widely, and include devices that meet or surpass the capabilities of conventional hearing aids.”
To which I must ask, “So what?”
Whatever happened to the idea of people making their own decisions, to individuals knowing what’s best for themselves? Individuals liberty and individual responsibility used to be the cornerstone of the conservative movement, or at least that’s what we were told.
When citing the fear of PSAP manufacturers that this bill would lead to creeping government into their businesses, they Niskanen and R Street simply dismiss this concern.
But what used to stop conservative organizations from getting involved in supporting such things