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A Voice from Fly-Over Country
December 27, 2012

We're the Government, and We're Here To Help You…
by Robert L. Hale
fitzgerald griffin foundation

MINOT, NORTH DAKOTA — One of the most feared phrases any business owner can hear is, "We're with government, and we're here to help you."

When it comes to creating wealth, running a business, managing personnel, or doing anything else for that matter, business owners know that government is their biggest obstacle. The growth of the government bureaucracy over the past 50 years has done more damage to our nation's economy than Mother Nature and all other non-governmental impacts combined.

Virtually everything a business can undertake first requires permission in some form from one or more government entities. Often the requirements of one government agency conflict with those of another. When it comes to the development of real property and building, the permitting process often takes more time than the actual construction.

Opening a business requires a business license and the completion of dozens of forms for regulatory and tax collection agencies. An owner must sign up for workers' compensation insurance, unemployment compensation withholding, Social Security withholding, and Medicare contributions. Before the business can open, it must have inspections by the fire department and building department; elevator permits must be in place; and, depending on the business, any number of other inspections and permits must be secured and displayed.

The business owner then needs to sign up for utilities, pay utility deposits, and post state and federal employee rights literature and non-discrimination notices. Then the hopeful employer has to begin the task of interviewing potential employees. Depending on the business, in order to comply with government mandates, the employer may be required to do a credit check or a criminal background check, and must be sure the person being hired is not an illegal alien. In addition, the employer has to be careful in conducting an interview of a potential employee lest the employer be open to being sued for racial, gender, or age discrimination.

Having paid to fund of all these hurdles, successfully obtain all the required permits, and open all the necessary government accounts, the businessman can now — at last — enter the business world and hope for success.

 

A business owner has become a government target — he or she must comply with an endless array of changing mandates, permits, and reporting requirements, as well as be available 24/7 to respond to government bureaucrats, whose salary and generous benefit package business owners themselves fund.

   

This is only the beginning of the struggle with an all-encompassing bureaucracy. Once open for business, an employer who terminates an employee must be prepared to pay the former employee's unemployment compensation or fight the assessment. A business owner has become a government target — he or she must comply with an endless array of changing mandates, permits, and reporting requirements, as well as be available 24/7 to respond to government bureaucrats, whose salary and generous benefit package business owners themselves fund.

Is it any wonder that fewer and fewer Americans seek to step out on their own to start a business, create jobs, and attempt to build a vibrant private economy?

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, thousands of apartment units were left with major water damage, and a lack of electricity, water, and sewer service. This resulted in human suffering and financial burdens on everyone. In New York City — the city of rent control — the displacement and damage was massive. In some cases, public utilities did not restore services for weeks after the hurricane, and pressure was on the city government to do something.

Michael Bloomberg, billionaire mayor, responded in a predictable manner. He issued a decree saying he was not interested in hearing excuses from landlords who had not restored heat or electricity in their buildings. Bureaucrats, whether public or private, have no connection to the realities of the difficulties facing those who actually have to make things work. They believe simply that demanding and threatening is good management.

Landlords, by virtue of being landlords, become obligated to restore their properties as demanded by the government. This is regardless of the reason they are not meeting the expectations of said government. The fact that rent control does not provide sufficient money to pay for the demanded action does not seem to matter.

Mindless grandstanding and irrational demands by any governmental system have very real consequences. The owners of these properties, realizing the buildings are actually millstones around their necks, are one by one quietly abandoning their properties.

Is it any wonder that New York City has so many abandoned apartment buildings? Mayor Bloomberg may single handedly be responsible for the demise of hundreds more.

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A Voice from Fly-Over Country is copyright © 2011 by Robert L. Hale and the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation. All rights reserved.

Robert L. Hale received his J.D. in law from Gonzaga University Law School in Spokane, Washington. He is founder and director of a non-profit public interest law firm. For more than three decades he has been involved in drafting proposed laws and counseling elected officials in ways to remove burdensome and unnecessary rules and regulations.

See a complete biographical sketch.

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