Issues & Insights

How Bureaucrats Ruin Everything From Dishwashers To Gas Cans To Cars

Have you ever wondered why dishwashers today take twice as long to do a worse job of cleaning dishes? Or why it’s so much harder to get gasoline out of a new gas can? Or why cars made decades ago always turn heads, while today’s are drab in the same way?

There’s a simple answer to these modern-day mysteries: Government regulators.

Take the dishwasher. Earlier this month, the Department of Energy announced that it would revise its rules regarding dishwasher efficiency. Why? Because the existing rules — which set limits on how much electricity and water a dishwasher may use — are forcing manufacturers to build machines that are worse than ever.

Source: Competitive Enterprise Institute

The DOE was responding to a petition from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which found that average dishwasher cycle times climbed from just over an hour back in the mid 1980s to two-and-a-half hours today — with each increase in between the result of increasingly strict federal efficiency mandates.

“It is not technologically feasible to create dishwashers that both meet the current standards and have cycle times of one hour or less,” the petition stated.

Shouldn’t dishwasher efficiency be something that the market dictates? Consumers trade off convenience for savings every day. Why should dishwashers be any different? Particularly when the regulations result in a savings of something like $2 a month.

Government Gas Cans

If CEI wins this battle for consumers, it might want to petition the government to let people buy gas cans that work properly. Most homeowners of a certain age will remember those good old gas cans that had a spout at one end, and a small resealable vent at the other. The vent let air in while the gasoline was pouring out.

But regulators at the Environmental Protection Agency didn’t like that simple solution to the physics of pouring liquids. They decided old-style gas cans were too polluting and let too much gas spill on the ground.

So the EPA decreed in 2009 that gas cans must henceforth have: 1) A single, self-venting opening for filling and pouring with no separate vents or openings and 2) a nozzle that automatically closes when it’s not being used.

The result was a gas can with complicated nozzles that can be difficult to handle, are prone to breaking, cost more, and make it harder to pour gasoline. In frustration, people started drilling vent holes in their EPA-approved gas cans and entrepreneurial companies started selling nozzle replacement kits.

Socialist Car Designs

Next, CEI could go after federal regulators who’ve managed over the course of several decades to completely ruin car designs.

Think about it. Why is it that cars made 40 years ago or more are captivating, and varied, with real personalities, while new cars today are, for the most part, indistinguishable?

The reason is that there’s basically only one way to design a car today that meets all the government-imposed safety and environmental regulations.

Jeffrey Tucker, writing for the American Institute for Economic Research, notes that “the designs of new cars are boring because regulations forced this result.”

Today, the government dictates nearly every single aspect of a car’s design. Big fronts for safety, low tops for fuel economy, tiny windows, high belt lines, etc. That’s just the exterior. Almost every feature of a car’s interior is also regulated by government.

One car designer noted that “I know of at least one vehicle … that was discontinued entirely because changing curtain airbag regulations would have meant the entire shape of the vehicle had to be redesigned.”

There are plenty of other examples like this of regulators making products worse. Toilets that don’t flush, showerheads that don’t allow sufficient water flow, and other modern product failures, are courtesy of the nanny state.

And all of this, mind you, is just the tip of the regulatory pyramid, with decades upon decades of rules, mandates, and regulations now affecting nearly every aspect of our economy. Has this monstrous regulatory state improved the quality of our lives?  If the above is any indication, the answer is most likely no.

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John Merline

Veteran journalist John Merline was Deputy Editor of Commentary and Opinion at Investor's Business Daily. Before IBD, he launched and edited the Opinion section of AOL News, and was a member of the editorial board of USA Today, where he continues to be a regular contributor. He’s been published in the Washington Post, National Review, Detroit News, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Forbes, and numerous other publications. He is regular commentator on the One America News Network and on local talk radio. He got his start in journalism under the tutelage of M. Stanton Evans.


  • New gas cans are absolutely useless. The utter moron who thinks the current regulations reduce spillage ought to be cleaning toilets rather than making any federal decisions. New dishwashers and washing machines are so efficient that you have to pre-wash everything before running them through if you hope to get anything clean.

    As far as new cars go. I’ve got no complaints. I don’t own any and hope never to own a car again. But please leave my trucks and SUVs alone 😉

  • My biggest complaint is with washers. They don’t get clothes clean anymore, and since the detergents are also regulated, it compounds the problem. Now we have to buy “boosters” and whites are still dingy. And don’t get me started on light bulbs!

  • Ambulance chasing lawyers put the American made Blitz gas can company out of business.
    The newish EPA spouts are more of a hazard than the well designed Blitz spouts which retracted into the can after use or had the simple snap cap on the spout end.
    EPA spouts require twisting a locking collar and retracting the spout at the same time. They have a small hook on tab that can be placed on your mower gas tank opening, but a full can of gas makes the EPA spout leak from the weight! Also, the self-venting is a fail, the gas gurgles and splatters during filling.

  • I just rebuilt my house after Hurricane Harvey, and this included a suite of new appliances. New washer, dryer, dishwasher, and refrigerator.

    The washer lacks an agitator, which means clothes just spin around while water is squirted at them. Every load has to use the “Heavy Clean” setting to do a decent job.

    The new dryer doesn’t get hot enough. Pre-Harvey I had an electric dryer that finished a load in 60 minutes. This new, gas-powered model (supposed to be cheaper to run and faster to dry) takes 2 hours for the same load. We bought a drying rack to ease the burden on the dryer.

    The dishwasher has an “express” mode that does little more than rinse your dishes, and that takes an hour. The standard load is two-and-a-half hours.

    The fridge is the only major appliance that works like a champ.

  • Ditto kitchen faucets. They are all low pressure now due to California regs.

  • And of course, in California, everything is even worse. Some examples.

    We were getting sick of buying expensive dishwashers and then have them short out–usually the result of cheap electronics for features no one even wants–give me mechanical pushbuttons and timer any day of the week! In addition, they would take hours to do a cycle. So this time, we bought the 2nd from the cheapest Maytag we could find. A nice feature it has is a “one hour wash” option. The manual “warns” that while the cleaning efficiency is the same, this mode uses more power and water! So be it. Never been happier than with a cheap, plastic lined dishwasher that at least gets the option done.

    Our plumber installed a nice, huge new shower head for us. Problem is, not enough flow to really wash you! So, I go to Home Depot, buy a plastic $7 shower head, rip out the plastic plug from the back, and have a wonderful, powerful shower. Since it actually washes you, my shower time is quick, likely using LESS water.

    California gas cans are the worst–use them as directed you will actually spill gas, especially when filling your power. Solution? Take the cap off entirely, and use a nice big funnel! Yeah, it vents to the air. Big deal….better than spilling gas all over.

    Totally sick of these rules, hoping for more pushback.

  • I was just talking about this with a friend yesterday. Happy to see we can buy gas can nozzles that actually work.

  • Ten years ago I bought a well used but repairable DW that I can keep working as long as I can glue and jury rig parts. I have done three major repairs and it still keeps on cleaning.

    I drive a 6000# luxury European diesel SAV and will do all that I

  • Brother you said it with the gas cans. I would take a hammer to mine if they were not plastic. So disgusting. I end up spilling more from them than I ever did with the old ones.

  • I really dislike the “new” gas cans. They are a real hazard — leak all over the place and the shape of the spout makes putting the spout into the filler tube problematic. The little push & twist gizmo tends to pop to the off position so I have to hold onto the spout to keep on filing the tank. The human factors engineering was amazingly poor — holding onto the tank while filling
    is difficult — easy to slip out of one’s hands.

  • Besides what’s listed – I want the old headlights back. Has anyone else noticed they’re not as bright and don’t project far enough? It’s rediculous! What’s the use in trying to drive, especially in areas with little to no street lights, and God forbid – heavy cloud cover – if you can’t see any further than a car length ahead?
    Ex- President Obama put the “clunker off the road bill” – older better built cars – into effect at the same time taking away our older style workhorse appliances. At the same time changing school lunch menus to the point children wouldn’t/couldn’t eat them which equates to tax dollar and food waste plus hunger of students and the effects of that.
    Per water saving appliances – does it occur to anyone that less water use equates higher concentrations of products/chemicals in our waters? They’re polluting our waters at a higher rate.
    Meanwhile, other countries across the world have free flowing , free water, to do with as they please. I’ve watched the YouTube videos as proof.
    There’s more humans on this planet than ever before yet politicians/government officials are taxing the already taxed taxes while claiming the country is broke. The amount of money consumers spend on needed appliances, autos, utilites, etc. Should equate to a prosperous community, that has time for family. I believe the intent for the restrictions isn’t so much to save anything but rather to control too much. The average person doesn’t have servants to chauffeur, clean, etc.
    We need our time back. We need the value of hardworking machines and we need to be able to see where we’re going.

  • Glad someone else feels this way and can prove it. Trying to use a gas can for an ill-designed car is ridiculous. As far as the dishwasher and washing machine thing is concerned — I am doing my best to keep the old ones working as long as possible.

  • Worst of all, dishwashers don’t dry as well as they did with a heating coil. Now, glasses must be toweled off before returning them to the cabinet. Don’t forget low-flow toilets. Anything the regulators touch, turns to crap. It’s the reverse Midas Touch.

    • My wife and I purchased a new home in southern California after living for a quarter century in the San Francisco Bay Area. We purchased a new washer and electric dryer (both Maytag) and both work perfectly — wash times are about 50 min. and dry times are 45 with large loads. We did, however, purchase the washer with an agitator, and I was told that these, while using more water, get the clothes cleaner. Electricity in our area is the most expensive in the state (courtesy of San Diego Gas and Electric Co.), so in November we had 18 solar panels and a new variable speed pool pump installed. Since then, our total electricity bill has been $56 for 7 months (before this it was $200 – $450/month)! We installed new drought-tolerant plants and drip irrigation when we had the old trees and lawn demolished, and our water bills are slightly below what they were before. I understand why so many people gripe about regulations that affect so many aspects of modern life, but cars are so much safer now, usually (though not always) more reliable, and more fuel-efficient if you don’t drive a big SUV or monster truck. For those who pine for those wonderful gas-guzzlers of yesteryear, do you really miss tail fins that much? Yes, cars look much alike today, at least on the outside, but getting them fuel-efficient with good aerodynamics and able to keep their passengers alive in a collision was essential to cutting fossil fuel consumption and lowering vehicular accident mortality, and although many of you may doubt the science of climate change, mother nature doesn’t give a damn WHAT you think, it’s going to make our environment weirder and more uncomfortable if not downright dangerous in the coming decades. My wife and I will probably be dead by the time most of the more serious consequences of a warming planet strike home, at least where we live now, but I fear for the world our children and grandchildren (if we ever have any) will inherit. These ARE the good old days.

  • Now, I’d never do any of these things, being a law abiding citizen, but I’m told there are workarounds for a few of the more onerous regulations.

    For instance, since the EPA mandated detergent manufacturers to eliminate phosphates from their formulas, and phosphates were the ingredient that cut grease/oils, some people I’m told are adding a couple tablespoons of TSP (Tri-sodium Phosphate) to each load along with their regular detergent. Problem solved, I’m told.

    I’m also told that drilling a 1/2″ hole in the top/back of a gas can, and installing an empty tire valve stem (metal stems work best), the vacuum in the can is eliminated.

    A friend tells me he bought a Speed Queen washer/dryer set. Mechanical controls, including on the back of the washer a nut that controls the amount of water in the tub. It comes factory set to the EPA level, but a half turn on the nut fills the tub up. You then have a real large load capacity.

    All hearsay, you understand.

  • I agree with people are saying about the “new ” products.. In 1975, we purchased a new maytag washer, last summer I replaced the drive belt. The automatic refill valve doesn’t work, but I shut the supply valve off anyway. The maytag dryer was purchased in 1977, 10 yrs ago we replaced the drive belt, no problems since. I don’t even want to get started on the B.S. diesel fuel cans that I have ( although I just found a G.I surplus fuel can ( it needs paint )).

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