WSJ: Obama’s FTC now going after evil capitalist piano teachers
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I bet you didn’t know the kindly old lady who taught you piano when you were 9 was actually part of a nefarious price-fixing scam that threatened the economic well-being of consumers everywhere. But don’t worry. The federal government is on the case, as Kim Strassel reports in Potomac Watch column for the Wall Street Journal:
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.
The group’s executive director flew to Washington to meet with FTC regulators, explaining that this line in the code of ethics was “strictly aspirational,” but the FTC didn’t care. Then the MTNA removed it from the code of ethics. The FTC didn’t care. Then the MTNA had the nerve to point out that the FTC doesn’t even have the power to regulate nonprofits. Ha! You think that’s going to stop them?
Here’s what the MTNA now has to do to avoid further harassment from the federal government:
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.
The association must also develop a sweeping antitrust compliance program that will require annual training of its state presidents on the potential crimes of robber-baron piano teachers. It must submit regular reports to the FTC and appoint an antitrust compliance officer. (The FTC wanted the officer to be an attorney, but Mr. Ingle explained that this would “break the bank,” so the agency—how gracious—is allowing him to fill the post.) And it must comply with most of this for the next 20 years.
Your tax dollars at work!
I really don’t get this one. Even if you buy the notion that the Obama Administration is about nothing but asserting/abusing federal power in the pursuit of the socialist utopia, how does it help you to accomplish that agenda to go after a bunch of little old ladies who teach piano for $30 an hour? Now that you’ve got them following the rules and respecting your authoritah . . . what? This sounds more like a bunch of bureaucrats just looking around for people to abuse because it’s what they live to do. Otherwise I can’t make sense of the realization that someone decided this would be a good idea, and no one who could have stopped it decided it was worth the effort to do so.
But at least you parents looking to shell out money for piano lessons can rest assured in the knowledge that if Mrs. Dimpleribbon tries to charge you too much, Mrs. Butterdoily can call you to make a better offer, and no Gordon Gekko-inspired piano teachers’ association can do anything about it.
We never had the government taking care of us like this before Obama came along.