Buried in a sea of government regulations

Filed under OPINION

We African-Americans must get more involved in making policy. As one of my mentors taught me, “You can be one of two things: a political activist or a political victim.”  We must get into the game and ensure our needs will be met. And we have plenty of needs.

As businesses work to overcome staggering obstacles – many of which are imposed by Washington – each step forward leads to two steps backward.  Few would argue that the anemic growth the country has experienced over the last four years is enough to rebound from the trough we find ourselves in, yet policymakers continue to revert to the same failed policies that have wielded little in the way of results.

Surrendered to government
In the wake of the 2008 economic downturn, the American public unwittingly surrendered innovation and individualism for the promise of federal rescue.  Now the sober realization that further government intervention has failed is setting in.  Recently, the rate of small business startups hit a record low, businesses lowered their hiring expectations, and government spending peaked – all at the expense of taxpayers.

Instead of empowering the private sector, the Obama administration has targeted it.  The president’s own comments in July underscored how aloof he is from business owners.  He said, “If you’ve got a small business – you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.” Before that he assessed that the private sector is “doing fine.”  All came after an Environmental Protection Agency official’s comments became public where he explained the organization’s policy of “crucifying” businesses.

Each year, small businesses create two-third of new jobs, and they produce half the U.S. gross domestic product. Unlike their larger competitors, these companies often can’t afford to hire specialists to navigate the burdens federal requirements put on them.  It takes valuable time and resources keeping up with all that’s asked of them.  It shouldn’t come as a surprise that small businesses recently downgraded their hiring expectations or that earlier this year, nearly half of those surveyed said that government regulation was their biggest deterrent to creating new jobs.

Limits competition
But the impact of government overreach is much broader.  In private markets, Washington is limiting competition.

Regulators in favor of less tested, possibly insufficient, alternatives have targeted once-proven safe chemicals.  The Environmental Protection Agency’s de facto regulatory program, Design for the Environment, needlessly promotes compounds that haven’t been sufficiently tested over those already approved.

In the telecommunications world, lawmakers seem intent on slow-walking important development.  Current regulations are still designed for mid-20th century technology, which makes no sense in today’s digital age.

Developments in domestic energy resources, which have already cut prices at the pump and lowered heating and utility costs for homeowners, continue to be stymied by strict federal and state regulation. The administration has cut offshore drilling permits by a third.  Federal and state agencies have acutely hamstrung developers through excessive regulation, in spite of proven safety measures.

Real solutions
Regulators should strive for more efficiency.  By partnering with small businesses, policymakers can create rules that protect our communities, the environment, and the economy.

It’s time to repower private industry. America is a country built on individualism, opportunity, and innovation.  Now is not the time to abandon those values.

Harry C. Alford is the co-founder and president/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce.

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