Cover Story

Hiring on hold

"Hiring on hold" Continued...

Issue: "All tied up," Sept. 24, 2011

But bold words have only led to nibbling around the edges when it comes to actual deregulation. In August, Obama's regulatory czar Cass Sunstein announced plans both to eliminate one EPA rule that could save $126 million annually and to reduce by 55 million the manpower hours required for IRS compliance.

But that represents less than one percent of the 7.6 billion total IRS paperwork hours endured by the nation annually. Furthermore, in the same week of Sunstein's chopping of one rule, federal regulators elsewhere were rolling out new rules: The National Labor Relations Board issued one making it easier for private-sector employees to unionize while other federal officials introduced at least five new regulations for Obamacare. It is predicted that the new healthcare law will impose $8 billion in private sector costs and $2.2 billion in costs to states annually.

Following a disappointing Labor Department report showing now no job growth in August, President Obama on Sept. 2 ordered the withdrawal of EPA's new national smog standards. Republicans praised the halt to costly restrictions, but Obama's late August appointment of Alan Krueger as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers raised other concerns. The Princeton economist has a resume thin on real-world business experiences, and he has supported both a value added tax (paid during production and adding to the price of goods) and a national energy tax. (The concept that businesses should pay more in taxes is of particular concern to Greensboro's Larry Diana: "I couldn't disagree with that more.")

Meanwhile Vice President Joe Biden told reporters on Aug. 26, "I think the economy does need more stimulus." At the time of its passage in 2009, administration officials predicted that the roughly $800 billion initial stimulus package would keep the unemployment rate below 8 percent. That didn't happen.

With Congress back from its recess, House Republicans are set to move on a series of bills aimed at slowing the regulatory flood. Pending legislation includes preventing the NLRB from interfering in the Boeing Company's efforts to open a plant in non-union South Carolina. Other bills tackle ongoing federal efforts to regulate cross-state air pollution, boilers, cement, coal ash, and farm dust. The House also will consider a bill to require an up-or-down vote in Congress for every major business regulation.

But such efforts would not likely survive a Senate vote or the president's veto pen. With 38 percent of small business owners listing government activities as their single greatest obstacle to hiring, the NFIB's Magnuson says the best hope for business owners may be that the government does no additional harm: "They need the government to stand down."

-with reporting by Joel Hannahs

Edward Lee Pitts
Edward Lee Pitts

Lee teaches journalism at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, and is the associate dean of the World Journalism Institute.


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