COMMENTARY | The Wall Street Journa lrecently reported that the Obama administration’s Federal Trade Commission has found a new enemy of the people, which is to say an association of piano teachers.
“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.”
And what, pray, has placed the MTNA in the same category as Standard Oil and Microsoft?
“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 FTC has actually no authority over non profits. But this apparently did not matter as much as the fact that the regulatory body has infinite legal resources to bring to bear against a small group largely comprised of matronly ladies who teach the piano out of their own homes to children and that the MTNA has no such resources. Despite the blatantly illegal character of the FTC’s threats, the MTNA had no choice but to knuckle under.
The group of robber baron piano teachers was forced to submit to a consent decree:
“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.”
From the use of the IRS to hassle tea party groups to now the use of the FTC to crush piano teachers, this administration has shown a willingness to use the regulatory powers of government to exert its will over the American people. Something clearly needs to be done to rein in the power of the regulators, perhaps by enacting criminal sanctions for such behavior. In the meantime, certain bureaucrats need to be hauled before Congress to explain themselves.