Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Foot--Always in the Foot

How many ways can a country shoot its economy in the foot and still expect to provide adequate services and essential functions of government to its citizens? And how can we tell when the last straw has been loaded--or injected into the same foot?

Like the proverbial frog in hot water, America has grown used to the idea that money for the latest cause, or need, is there; it's simply a matter of dividing the spoils, taking money otherwise being spent foolishly and reapplying it to more worthwhile uses. But suppose, just suppose, that while the country has been fixated on taking, dividing, and funding new causes, the producers of the money haven't kept up--we're outrunning our supply line--worse, some of our new endeavors are actually encumbering the producers to the point where less money (wealth) is being generated rather than the increased amount we're counting on.

Consider some of the additional burdens placed on our producers since the end of WW2: Environmental cleanup and regulation, safety--OSHA and product liability, diversity and other social responsibilities such as liability for sexual harassment, consumer protection from bad food, drugs, automobiles, and financial exploitation. All of these, and more, add to the cost of doing business. In addition to the cost of doing what's necessary to implement the new laws and regulations, there is the cost of personnel whose function is to study (attend seminars etc.) so as to understand and stay up to date on regulations, see that they are implemented, and to interface with the respective government bureaucrats and enforcers. This includes filling out and filing numerous reports, It's all worth it of course, since these additional costs of doing business create a better quality of life for the rest of us. But what control mechanisms do we have? What keeps the process from becoming a bureaucratic steam roller, a self-justifying, holy cause-- one in which most businesses (particularly small to medium size) can't keep up?

Ten years ago, I felt reasonably satisfied with the rate of progress in improving all of the above, and more, (I was unaware of the reduced regulations in the financial industry, and the power of Fanny and Freddy--our government going backwards and the danger to come). Overall, I felt the quality of life for all of us was good and improving. Federal regulations then totaled 1 million pages. Today, the regulations total 3.2 million pages. I make that to be a stack of paper (printed two sides) approx. 500 feet high and I have a distinct feeling that we are going backwards--can't even keep our parks operating properly. Our infrastructure isn't being maintained, much less updated and expanded to accommodate a growing population and increasing world trade.

All over the world, politicians are working frantically, using every carrot and stick, to get their economies up off the floor, to get them to provide more wealth--the wealth they need to pay their debts and continue their proliferate ways. Our pols are doing the same, deluding themselves and the people into thinking that they can do this.


Yes, yes, yes the government can help, typically with infrastructure. Some of you will remember my essay THE ERIE CANAL. If not, I can send you a copy. And improved K-12 education wouldn't hurt.

Our pols in DC have spent years fighting like jackals over our limited funds while concentrating more seriously on raising funds from special interests for their campaigns and plush retirements. Isn't it time to pay serious attention to where wealth comes from, and how the government can stop impeding its creation?
Joe Bakewell

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