Small Business, Obama At Odds on Regulation

Last week brought more news that an avalanche of regulation from Big Brother is making entrepreneurs cry "uncle," but there's little reason to believe Washington is listening.

Gallup has just reported that small business owners "are most likely to say complying with government regulations is the most important problem facing them" right now, topping consumer confidence in the economy and lack of consumer demand.

Here's a metric of pain to explain what's facing these entrepreneurs as they try to live the American dream under an increasingly regulated regime: there are now more than 80,000 pages of federal rules and regulations (at an annual national cost of $1.75 trillion), as well as more than 70,000 pages in the federal tax code. Several credible research groups show that the cost of regulatory compliance now averages about $10,500 per employee and it continues to rise.

So a would-be entrepreneur now faces about 150,000 pages of legalese even before the doors open. At a rate of continuously reading 3 pages per minute (an optimistic agenda, given the density of such rules), our friend would be forced to spend 50,000 minutes--833 hours or about 35 days. That is an impressive filibuster, even by DC standards.

Then throw in state, county, and city taxes and zoning and permitting rules. And, don't forget, ObamaCare is bringing all sorts of new regulatory delights with their attendant costs. It's no wonder America doesn't even make the top 10 places to start a new business, in rankings just released by INC.

This is not news to anyone who has been operating a business. Just after taking office, the administration immediately signaled its willingness to cost taxpayers and make it more difficult to operate a business when, in February 2009, it threw a bone to its biggest supporters in Big Labor by signing an executive order to give preference to union-only companies on large, federally funded construction projects.

The hits have just kept coming, unfortunately. The National Labor Relations Board is attempting to rig rules so that union organizers can: cherrypick small units of friendly employees while disenfranchising their co-workers; force employers to allow organizers on property as if they were the Girl Scouts or Salvation Army Santas; and leave virtually no time for employees to hear anything other than a union's sales pitch before making a decision that affects their future and that of their company.

Throw in rules from the EPA that force small companies to buy expensive new equipment--which will in turn raise the overall cost of energy, drive up costs of virtually all products and transportation, and create a new and devastating drag on the economy--and there quickly and clearly emerges a picture of a United States hobbled by red tape.

Such a picture and the resulting polling ought to be a big warning sign for an administration heading into re-election, because without small businesses there won't be anyone driving job growth.

Yet the president will be forced to choose between the clarion voice of small business owners and a progressive political base looking for more scalps. An inside-the-Beltway columnist recently wrote that the president must rely on executive action to "demonstrate progressive leadership and keep Democratic hopes alive." Not surprisingly, the quote in support came from an AFL-CIO spokesperson, who said the President "has got to do more for the rank and file."

It is becoming clear to even a casual observer that we are coming to a time for choosing in America. Do we continue to allow government to dictate more and more to small businesses, or do we heed the cries of entrepreneurs and say that it has come time so soon again to seek real change?

Phil Hoppman is President of Big D Metalworks in Dallas, Texas and a spokesman for the Halt The Assault campaign

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