|Small businessmen know about that
sort of frustration. And few things are likely to arouse any small businessman
these days as much as the mention of red tape. Forms, questionnaires, surveys,
regulations, pamphlets, rules, specifications, requirements and more seem
to come from Washington in an endless blizzard.
Some of this paperwork is necessary. But surely
a whole lot of it can be consolidated, if not done away with altogether.
Some of this "paper river" is the result of legislation
that grew out of investigations of shoddy practices, unsafe conditions
and the like. Some of it came after specific groups and organizations lobbied
hard for this or that law or this or that regulation. And some of it represents
some slipshod moves by the Congress. Legislation that resulted in new paperwork
was sometimes far from being well thought out, or the long-term implications
simply were not considered.
Up until the middle 1950s, the federal government
held major regulatory responsibility in just four areas: antitrust, banking,
transportation and communications.
Now there are more than 1,000 different federal
programs handled by more than 77 federal agencies, and 50 of those have
been created since 1960.
* * *
Most Americans don't object to sound and reasonable
regulations and programs that insure that their workplace is safe, or that
the air they breathe and the water they drink
is clean, or that the automobiles
and trucks they drive are as safe as reasonably possible.
What Americans do object to, are rules and regulations
and laws that seem silly or unenforceable, that duplicate one another,
that stifle our country's economy rather than promote it, that leave us
running in exasperated circles.
Small business complaints about burdensome regulations
by federal agencies are valid. And we in the Congress must share some of
the blame with the regulators.
We live in an extraordinarily complex society.
The Congress recognized long ago that it must pass laws that are designed
to encourage economic growth, while reducing abuses to individuals, or
to federal resources.
The federal agencies which administer these regulations
generally seek these same objectives, but both Congress and the agencies
are guilty of "over-engineering." Both have written laws and regulations
that try to cover not only the immediate problem, but every future and
unforseen problem and situation as well.
Insuring that no corner is left unswept may be
a good intention. But trying to cover the unforseen problem can have unforseen
This practice can cause untold difficulties for
the "little guy" who doesn't have the staff or resources to comply with
all the rules and regulations. Worse, many of the rules are causing out-and-out
business failures, others have actually reduced competition, others have
contributed to inflation and still others, to unemployment.
And it does no good to enact a minimum wage law
with an eye to helping more Americans take home a decent wage, when one
effect of that law turns out to be inflationary, and another is actually
keeping young people out of the work force.
Clearly, these are the kinds of side effects that
are inexcusable, and they demand immediate attention.
* * *
Regulations, vanishing competition, red tape,
wages, taxes -- these are the problems facing small business. But they
are not problems beyond solution. Far from it. In fact,
|in a couple of areas, help is either
on the way or already on the law books.
Here's a rundown of steps that have been or are
Regulations. I have added my name this
year to the list of co-sponsors of HR 2, the Sunset Act of 1979. If enacted,
this law would require justification of some federal agencies and programs
every 10 years. Without justification, they would face automatic extinction.
Taxes. In the 95th Congress, I supported
HR 10784, the Small Business Tax Relief Act of 1978. The bill revised the
tax scale for small businesses grossing less than $100,000 a year. This
legislation represented a giant step in recognizing the special situation
of the small businessman, and acknowledged that Joe's Shoe Repair is not
Minimum Wage. Minimum wage laws in general
make good economic sense. When wages go up, so do tax receipts, and so
does buying power. But I also understand that there is a need for exceptions
and adjustments. There should be allowances to recognize that small business
and young people need each other, but perhaps they can't work out an arrangement
without some help. Maybe there is room here for the federal government
to pick up a "piece of the action," to make up the difference between what
a small businessman is able to pay, and what the minimum wage law requires.
* * *
I want to put together a comprehensive legislative
package this year aimed at the heart of the problems facing the small businessman.
In meetings with small groups of these executives throughout Southern Arizona,
I've been asking for their advice, their help and for their suggestions.
In June, I plan to take this legislative package
before a larger group of small businessmen meeting in Tucson, and ask each
one to take a look at the proposals before the bill is introduced in this
Congress. It will address much of what has been discussed in this newsletter.
No institution, public or private, is perfect,
and that includes the Congress. It is one thing to err, but it is quite
another thing to persist in an error. If we are finding mistakes growing
out of well-intended legislation, then let's go back and correct them.
Despite the problems, small business in America
today still is vibrant. The dream is still a good one. Marshall Loeb, writing
in a recent issue of Time magazine, said it well:
"The corner druggist who opens a chain of stores
is a Norman Rockwell hero, and he often earns far more money -- and gets
far less flak -- than a drug company chief. A lucky Texas wildcatter is
looked upon as a sturdy independent, and he can buy and sell an oil company
"A large crowd of Holiday Inn, Coca-Cola and Roto-Rooter
franchisees, real estate brokers, art dealers and liquor distributors are
good for $500,000 or more, year after year. Given the multiplying value
of their land, probably more farmers and ranchers than corporate executives
have a net worth above a million.
"So despite . . . bold headlines of big pay for
some higher-up hired hands, an old fact remains true: America still reserves
its richest rewards not for those few who climb in corporate hierarchies,
but for the many who dare, who risk, and who go into business for themselves."
With your help, we can keep it that way.