Republican Senator: Let Restaurants Opt Out of Hand-Washing Regulation

It’s one thing for certain Republicans to extend the “government is the problem” meme into the realms of the extreme, it’s another thing entirely when they’re just plain dumb about it. Slowly but surely, the GOP is applying the meme to the vaccination debate, rapidly turning what ought to be a non-partisan issue into an unnecessarily partisan shovel-fight.

As the debate heats up and the newly formed GOP position on vaccines spreads to each of 2016 candidates like the Ebola virus, a lesser known player has applied the laissez-faire attitude to a different public health issue: forcing restaurant employees to wash their hands after using the bathroom.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) — yes, an actual U.S. senator — spoke at the Bipartisan Policy Center this week and, among other topics, he discussed how the U.S. is “one of the most regulated nations in the history of the planet.” Naturally he’s just making that up. He went on to say that restaurant owners should be allowed to opt-out of the hand-washing regulation.

“I was having a discussion with someone, and we were at a Starbucks in my district, and we were talking about certain regulations where I felt like ‘maybe you should allow businesses to opt out,'” the senator said.

Sure, what could possibly go wrong when service workers who handle food for a living don’t have to wash their hands after spending some time at a toilet, handling their genitals. Hands off our filthy hands, Big Government! Even with the current regulation in place, do we honestly believe that restaurant workers always wash their hands? Without the regulation, we might as well order our meal with a drizzle of urine.

That wasn’t the truly dumb part of Tillis’ idea.

“I said: ‘I don’t have any problem with Starbucks if they choose to opt out of this policy as long as they post a sign that says “We don’t require our employees to wash their hands after leaving the restroom,” Tillis said.

So, businesses can opt out of the law, but they’re forced by law to put up a sign that says they opted out. Hmm. Okay. In other words, Tillis is trading one regulation for another regulation, only his regulation doesn’t necessarily help anyone. Given the choice between the pair of regulations, since Tillis’ idea creates a new regulation, which would you prefer? Any sane human would take the first one, of course. It takes a special kind of stupid to believe that upon arriving at a restaurant every customer goes to the bathroom to check the hand-washing policy. It seems as if the only people who would know about the opt-out decision would be those who make a b-line for the crapper before sitting down to eat. Everyone else would have to roll the dice and how the staff washed up.

Here’s an idea that I’m sure Tillis will go for. What if instead of shutting down Planned Parenthood and other women’s clinics that offer abortion services, we simply allow them to opt out? Let the marketplace decide.

Look, the idea of smaller government is nice in theory, but upon execution everything falls apart and this nonsense is no exception.

Bob Cesca is the host of the Bob Cesca Show podcast, a twice weekly political talk show. He’s also a contributor to Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.