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Regulations: too many to be all good

The original intentions behind regulations were to address market failure, promote economic and social welfare, or advance other goals of policymakers, but even regulations with the best intentions have raised concerns for their unintended consequences. Additionally, many federal and state mandates have been reactive in nature, instead of forming or contributing to a coherent government strategy.

The reach the impact of regulatory bodies has had is immense. Small businesses feel the weight of the regulatory burden at the local, state, and federal levels, massive corporations base location and expansion based on regulations, and the sum total of regulation has led to slowed growth and competitiveness of many countries. Regulations impact a lot.

Take the occupational licensing regs of today. These requirements serve as a barrier to entry into the market, just as they were intended to decades ago as a response to racial or ethnic prejudices. are the legacy of earlier efforts to protect profits by limiting entry to the market. Modern occupational licensing is branded as necessary for quality control, but still works to protect the earning power of established providers. This is harmful to small businesses and entrepreneurs, and has recently been an issue with hair braiding at home.

Remember the EpiPen price scandal? The ridiculous price increase that left many in danger of serious complications from allergic reactions was possible because of regulations. There were few substitutes for EpiPen, which shielded it’s supplier from competition and allowed for a drastic price increase to around $600.

Some regulations and regulatory bodies are good and necessary. But when the Code of Federal Regulations has grown to 175,000 pages, and the small state of Delaware’s regulatory body alone includes 104,562 restrictions and would take 9 weeks to read in its entirety.

In normal times, state and federal government should examine their regulatory body and ask businesses for their perspective. Businesses are beholden to a high standard anyways if they want to keep customers, and too many regulations make it near impossible to make clear their margins, hire workers, or even get started in the first place.

Now, as we recover from the impact COVID-19 has had on our businesses, workers, and economy, our legislators must seriously consider the impact their policy decisions will have on rebuilding what was lost in 2020. In many cases, reducing and eliminating  current regulations that are job killers could help some small businesses endure the crisis. The recovery of small businesses and jobs will spawn economic growth and a healthy job market.

Below is a list of some examples of just the regulatory bodies that have an impact on this massive regulatory burden on businesses. Keep in mind that this is not a comprehensive list, and that every entity on the list issues and enforces their own regulations. Each one is another weight on the shoulders of entrepreneurs and business owners, and not all are necessary to ensure a safe and productive market. This does not include county and city regulations that are enacted in addition to those put forth by these entities.

Federal:

  • Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
  • National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
  • Internal Revenue Service
  • Social Security Administration
  • Defense Department
  • Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
  • Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
  • Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
  • Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
  • Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
  • Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)
  • Federal Reserve System (the FED)
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC)
  • National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)
  • Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)
  • Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
  • Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
  • The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)

Delaware:

  • State Insurance Commissioner
  • State Bank Commissioner
  • Public Service Commission
  • Department of Labor (DOL)
  • Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC)
  • Safety and Homeland Security
    • Alcohol Beverage Control Commission
    • Office of Highway Safety
  • Merit Employee Relations Board
  • Public Employment Relations Board
  • Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation
  • Food Product Inspection
  • Forest Service
  • Harness Racing Commission
  • Thoroughbred Racing Commission
  • Cash Management Policy Board
  • Delaware Health Care Commission
  • Delaware Manufactured Home Relocation Authority
  • Board of Manufactured Homes Installation
  • Delaware River Basin Commission
  • Delaware Solid Waste Authority
  • Professional Standards Board
  • Delaware Economic Development Authority
  • Division of Public Health
  • Fraud and Consumer Protection Division
  • Board of Cosmetology and Barbering
  • Human Relations Commission
  • State Fire Prevention Commission
  • Division of Motor Vehicles
  • Various professional boards

Pro-worker mandates actually hurt workers

All policy—economic or social, conservative or liberal—has unintended consequences. Good policy would minimize the negative effects of the measure while best targeting the problem that is being addressed. When it comes to business-related legislation, we are far from good policy.

Take employer mandates like paid family leave and increased minimum wage for example. Both efforts seek to tackle an issue head on, and are branded as “pro-worker” legislation. In an isolated bubble, this may be true. However, in the real world, pro-worker measures inflict more damage than that they seek to heal.

If paid family leave looks to provide a better work life balance and support to families, then why is it ignored that the current proposals would result in smaller wages, layoffs, or impact social security? These side effects are pretty harmful to workers and their families as well.

Look at minimum wage. The entire argument in support of $15 per hour is based on the need for a livable wage for these workers. But what happens when their employer cannot afford the cost increase, and cannot raise their prices high enough to make up for it? Instead of a $15 hourly wage, many workers will be left with no hourly wage when they are laid off to accommodate the mandate. Zero dollars is certainly not a livable wage.

Video: What’s Killing the American Dream? from PragerU

Legislation and regulations that are anti-business are blatantly anti-worker and anti-jobs.

Small businesses are vastly important to the American and Delaware economy. Such critical establishments should be supported by their representatives, but unfortunately are not. In fact, it’s the opposite. Government regulation is killing small businesses—and killing the jobs they create as well.

Putting social goals over profits is misleading. Traditional profit-seeking entrepreneurship has benefits that span community, socio-economic status, race, and gender. Suppressing these profits will in turn suppress the benefits they provide to overall society.

Increases in regulatory restrictions are associated with declines in lower- and middle-skilled jobs, lower wages, reduced hours, layoffs. None of those things are pro-worker.

In a better informed government that weighed the consequences of feel good legislation, lawmakers would work across the aisle to support bills that actually promote job growth, support businesses, and strengthen the economy. This new approach would mean that our elected officials work for the people, instead of duping them.

The next time you hear a lawmaker, party representative, colleague, or friend denounce a pro-business policy for being anti-worker or for putting business over the people, consider how a business can support its workers when their operations take a hit, and why both sides can’t align on this issue.

Killing jobs and cutting wages does not help workers

If Delaware wants to understand the ramifications of various employer mandates featured on many platforms this election season, they can look north to Connecticut. Connecticut’s proposed bills in 2018 included family and medical leave, expanded paid sick leave, and minimum wage hikes. The implementation and compliance costs of these mandates to taxpayers and businesses were estimated to be up to $530 million.

Connecticut Business and Industry Association President and CEO Joe Brennan expressed concern that long term talks about the difficulty of having one-size-fits-all mandates on employers applied to these bills as well. Added costs and administrative burdens expected to accompany these and similar measures are bad news for an economy as businesses will be forced to lower wages or cut jobs entirely.

You hear people ask, “Why not mandate that employers can’t do these harmful things?” Unfortunately, these things cost money that has to come from somewhere. Businesses are experts in finding ways to be able to stay afloat and keep their doors open and will have no option but to make cuts if saddled with these costs.

Connecticut’s paid leave benefits were set to be funded by mandatory deductions from employee wages, exchanging income for benefits. On top of this, taxpayers would fork over $18.6 million annually to administer these plans. The costs impact more than just the employees and tax payers: businesses’ bottom lines will be impacted, especially for companies that are operating on very small profit margins, like small businesses.

So what can businesses do?

The easy answer is to cut wages or cut jobs to make up the additional costs. Automation is rapidly expanding in the business world, and is a cheaper option in the long term to having increasingly expensive, and often unreliable, human labor. Robots could occupy 38% of jobs in the U.S. economy by 2030, and boost productivity, manage labor costs and improve operational predictability for large and small businesses. Small businesses like transportation and storage, manufacturing, retail and other industries, are the most likely to adopt these changes in the near-term. They’re also the ones who will be hardest hit by the proposed employer mandates.

In addition to or to avoid layoffs or automation, businesses could also raise prices to pass the cost onto the consumer. In this instance, the business still faces higher costs, but now the tax payer is paying twice to fund these mandates. If the costs become too high and sales suffer, layoffs are back on the table.

You can’t force a company to hire associates but you can certainly force them out of a burdensome state or country they can no longer afford to operate in—and they’ll take their jobs with them.

When our workers, small businesses, and overall economy are already struggling to get back on their feet after COVID, anything that could provide such widespread damage should be off the table. The 2021 Legislative Session should focus on helping Delaware workers and businesses, not forcing them into unemployment and bankruptcy. This election will determine if our workers and businesses can recover, or if costly and burdensome mandates will cause more job loss and small business struggle. Delawareans must make the best choice for the future this November.

Employer mandates: mandating job and income loss

Paid leave and similar employer mandate policies have risen in popularity over the past few years, and really came to the forefront during the coronavirus pandemic. On the surface, these measures will help workers (especially low and middle class) provide for and tend to their families. In reality, they will hurt businesses, cost jobs, and lead to lower wages.

An alternative option would be to allow the private sector to come together to either establish insurance plans that would cover short-term disability or paid family leave plans or allowing lower-income hourly workers to choose if they would want to convert overtime pay to paid leave. If we want to help workers, we should do so in a way that actually helps them.

Especially now, as businesses are struggling to recover from the economic crisis that accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic, employers cannot afford this burden. Losing your job is worse for a worker than losing a paycheck from not having paid sick leave or a paid family leave mandate.

Unfortunately, these platforms leave out a very important part of these types of mandates: the costs that will be placed on employers will end up hurting the very people they are seeking to help. Economic analysis and economists—both liberal and conservative—agree that the main people who pay for employer mandates are employees.

The cost of the health care provided to the employee does not result in more productivity or value of that employee at their firm. By adding this cost, it is more likely that incomes will be lowered in order for the total value of the employee to remain the same, even with additional costly mandates. Sometimes, the cost of these mandates results in layoffs so that the company can afford to provide them to the remaining employees.

So why do politicians who claim to advocate for workers support ideas that will hurt them? Well, it’s easy to support something that sounds good and has hidden consequences and costs.

For low income workers, employer mandates like health insurance mean far higher costs for the employer and a higher likelihood of layoffs. Since people cannot be paid less than minimum wage, the higher costs are forced onto employers who will have to adjust for these costs by laying off workers or cutting hours.

In a 2019 New Hampshire bill to implement a government-administered paid family leave program, a new tax was included to help cover the costs of the mandate. However, the tax that would cost the average worker an extra $267 per year only covered one fifth of the cost of the mandate. In this instance, employees would lose earning from both the tax and whatever cost-cutting measures their employer would be forced to take.

The costs aren’t just monetary.

If an employer has two applicants for a job and one appears more likely to take advantage of a mandate like parental leave (young, female), it might reduce the employer’s willingness to hire that person. Hiring a young woman then becomes a cost burden that an employer may not be willing to take on. In turn, this mandate intended to provide a benefit ends up leading to discriminatory hiring practices and higher unemployment in a new group.

When making decisions that impact businesses, lets allow businesses to contribute ideas for better solutions that benefit employers and employees alike. The government is not the answer to every question.