There are alien abduction and crop circle websites. There are websites that argue the Holocaust and the moon missions were faked. And now, at www.propublica.org/blog/item/whats-the-evidence-that-regulations-kill-jobs, you can read about how regulation doesn’t cost jobs, because all jobs lost in the regulated industries are replaced by new and better jobs in the regulatory agencies riding herd over them.
"The effects on jobs are negligible" from government regulations, explains Richard Morgenstern, who served in the EPA from the Reagan to Clinton years and is now at Resources for the Future, described here as "a nonpartisan think tank."
"They’re not job-creating or job-destroying on average," he explains.
Almost a decade ago, we’re informed, Mr. Morgenstern and some colleagues published research on the effects of regulation using 10 years worth of Census data on four different polluting industries. They found that when new environmental regulation was applied, "higher production costs pushed up prices, resulting in lost sales for businesses and some lost jobs, but the job losses were also offset by new jobs created in pollution abatement."
Wow! So if we keep regulating and regulating until any given industry has seen its work force and profitability reduced by 90 percent, it won’t matter because we’ll now have 90 regulators to regulate each 10 remaining workers, leaving the jobs picture the same!
Just like if you go into a wildlife sanctuary that used to house eight wolves and 1,600 rabbits for the wolves to feed on, and kill off 1,592 of those rabbits and replace them with 1,592 additional wolves, everything will still be fine, pretty much indefinitely, because your total animal count remains the same!
I know a fair number of people who’ve been supporting themselves with small, start-up businesses, probably under the table while still collecting unemployment checks (I don’t ask), since being laid off within the past two to four years here at Ground Zero of the Great Recession.
Good for them. That’s the American spirit.
Some sell records and CDs and DVDs online. (Sellers may now outnumber buyers for some of these products.) Some do repair and maintenance work on their friends’ cars. The list of possibilities is endless.
Eventually, in a normal economy not crippled by taxes, regulations and uncertainty about what kind of punish-the-rich nonsense government is going to dream up next — for example, in the pre-1965 or pre-1933 American economies — many such start-up entrepreneurs would now be reaching a point where they’d say, "Honey, this business has just plain outgrown this house. We’ve got more orders than we can deal with, and I want my living room back. I think it’s time we rented some kind of commercial or industrial building, hung up a sign, put in a business phone, and hired a couple people to help us catch up."
Today, anyone who’s been to the zoo to see the elephant will say those words only in a voice dripping with irony. People I know, after growing their business sufficiently to pay the bills, are now actually reversing course and selectively, intentionally downsizing, doing anything possible to avoid ever being caught with a brick-and-mortar location and — foulest of dirty words — a payroll.
Why? Talk to anyone who’s tried to set up a business in this town or any town this size in recent years. Tens of thousands in costs to install sprinklers to meet the new fire code, a hundred grand to bring the restrooms up to ADA compliance. Thousands more to install either more lighting or less lighting. (Yes, "green" energy standards in the new codes can actually lead compliance officers to inform you your premises are too well-lit — better to let customers stumble in the dark.)
Planning to do some baking? Did you know the EPA now considers that delicious aroma of fresh-baked bread to be a toxic pollutant you may have to spend millions to capture and destroy?
Set up to collect, withhold and submit with the proper paperwork to half a dozen different authorities your sales taxes, property taxes, unemployment insurance premiums, payroll taxes — some monthly, some quarterly, all due whether or not you had any income that month, all carrying penalties from massive fines up to and including jail time should you get the paperwork wrong?
Planning to serve food — even pizza slices from a machine — sell vitamins or medicines, or do anything having to do with firearms, coins or jewelry? In that case, you haven’t even begun. Let me introduce you to the state health department, the county health department, the Metropolitan Police Department pawn detail and the federal Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which can interrupt your business to audit you for days at a time without notice, closing you down for alleged errors on fewer than 1 percent of your ledger entries.
By the way, will any of your employees need to subject themselves to fingerprinting for a sheriff’s card? Wanna bet?
Speaking of the ADA, if you hire someone who later claims to have a disability, can you ever fire them?
What kind of costs could ObamaCare and even union-supported state benefits mandates soon start to impose on your little enterprise? How high could new green mandates drive up your electric bill?
Do you have all the proper permits for that sign you wanted to put up? In Las Vegas, you can’t even apply for a sign permit. You have to hire one of a small number of licensed sign companies to file the application. And they charge thousands!
Regulation doesn’t cost jobs? How shall we count all the jobs that would have been created by all of today’s start-up entrepreneurs, who survey this landscape and quietly slink back to doing it themselves, without ever having stuck their heads up far enough to get whacked?
This is why there are no jobs — not because interest rates aren’t low enough for entrepreneurs to borrow. In fact, if you want me to consider investing in a start-up business, offer me 2 points above prime — with prime at 10 to 12 percent, where it was when the nation started to climb back out of the stagflation of the Carter years.
But I guess those of us who point these things out are just doing the bidding of our pals, the greedy fat-cat oil companies.
I met a guy once, up Alberta way, who manufactured drilling platforms. Does that count?
Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the Review-Journal, and author of "The Black Arrow" and "Send in the Waco Killers." See www.vinsuprynowicz.com.