"Give Me a Boost" Now Has a Whole New Meaning

Texas–being as large, diverse and unique as we are–finds it quite possible to mess up in entertaining ways. More times than we care to admit, bills emerge from the Texas Legislature that are so ridiculous they make our politicians look like a bunch of untalented stand-up comedians, though the U.S. Congress manages to exceed our efforts on a regular basis. Of course there are a lot more of them.

We all are familiar with the mandatory use of infant seats, car seats and booster seats. Booster seats, until just recently, were only required for children under the age of 5 and/or less than 3′ 6” tall. But things they are a changin’ and older children ain’t gonna like what’s headed their way…never mind adults who are vertically challenged.

In case you hadn’t figured out what’s going on, either by not living in Texas (And if you don’t, why not?) or being isolated from all television and radio broadcasts, let me bring you up to speed. Hang on to your steering wheels because the ride’s fixin’ to get rough.

In case you think the Nanny State has made few inroads in Texas, you might like to know about Senate Bill SB61 that will expand the mandated use of booster seats to anyone under the age of 8 and/or less than 4′ 8” in height. Yep, you read it right. This leads to more than a few very interesting scenarios.

Any kids over 5 and under 8, having just escaped the stigma of being treated like babies by no longer having to ride strapped into a booster seats, have suddenly been returned to babyhood. Trust me, they will not go gently or quietly into that booster seat. Kicking and screaming will be more like it, hanging desperately onto the nearest doorpost, window or any other handy anchor while their parent tries to shove them back into that dreaded seat with all the gentility of an offensive tackle. It could well be easier to convince a convicted criminal to walk meekly into the death chamber in Huntsville. Quieter, anyway.

One other thing to consider is that while the parent is involved in trying to convince, coerce or just flat out force the child to submit to the gentle ministrations of that hated booster seat while ignoring the brat’s (sorry…I meant to say “child’s”) stentorian screams, the parent could easily be reported for child abuse by any passing disinterested party. If that happens, it will be no more than a few minutes before a police cruiser (AKA a prowl car) will arrive, followed shortly thereafter by Child Protective Services. That event opens a can of worms so nasty that we don’t even want to go into here.

Lest you think otherwise, children under the age of 8 may not be the only ones affected by this ‘improvement’ to the booster seat law. Remember, it specifies that the law applies to those under the age of 8 and/or less than 4′ 8” in height. The operative phrase here is and/or. The law as written can easily be interpreted to mean that anyone shorter than 4′ 8” ride in a booster seat. It takes very little imagination to see where that can go. There are plenty of people in Texas, particularly petite women, who are less than 4′ 8” but who are also definitely older than 8. Imagine, if you will, seeing a beautiful, blonde, petite woman who is 4′ 7 1/2”, 35 years young and driving a GMC SUV while strapped in a booster seat. If that isn’t bad enough, consider what you can’t see: booster blocks bolted to the accelerator and brake pedal so that our vertically challenged blonde beauty can reach them. This also causes another unintended effect. Anyone, such as our lady’s husband, boyfriend or significant other wanting to drive the same SUV will not be able to without taking the time (along with a socket wrench or two) to remove the booster blocks from the pedals.

There are always well-intended laws that cause more problems than they solve. You can ignore them, but that’s only practical if you can afford to pay the fines (though this time the fine is a paltry $25 per violation) resulting from tickets that you will definitely accumulate or don’t have any objection to potential jail time. Vertically challenged people can always try different ways to look taller, such as sitting on a Houston telephone book or wearing an expensive pair of cowboy boots (Justin or Nocona are preferred.) Ladies can try reviving the beehive hair-do. A large hat works for both men and women. Since this is Texas, men can legitimately wear a ten-gallon hat (Remember Hoss Cartwright in Bonanza?) Then, there is always the ultimate option: HGH, otherwise known as Human Growth Hormone.

If, as a loving, doting parent and law abiding citizen (regardless of what you think of the law in question) you want to rescue your child from the embarrassment of minimal vertical acquisition, check with your physician about putting your child on a regimen of Human Growth Hormone. When he/she begins Driver’s Ed at the age of 15 without the need of a booster seat, your child will thank you.

Right about now you’re probably wondering what the heck this has to do with economics and/or investing. The answer is more than you think. Our erstwhile government is already trying to tell investors in the stock market that they can’t sell short. Another recent proposal has government controlling exactly how much compensation executives in the financial services can receive. General Motors is already being referred to derisively as Government Motors and now the State of Texas is expanding their control over citizens’ lives with the booster seat improvement law. Of course, if you own stock in a booster seat manufacturer…

Incidentally, SB61 will never make it to the Governor’s desk for signature. It doesn’t have to. Governor Perry said that he had some concerns about the bill but that it didn’t rise to the level of a veto. As a result, he let it become law without his signature. But on the bright side, you do get a one year warning period (I thought that used to be called a grace period.) before the new law begins impacting your wallet.

No good law can ever be left alone when you can “improve” it. The improved booster seat law in a prime example.

Richard Marmo

June 16, 2009

The Daily Reckoning