Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Niall Ferguson argues that government is making it harder to run a business

In the Wall Street Journal.


Seven years of data suggest that most of the world’s countries are successfully making it easier to do business: The total number of days it takes to carry out the seven procedures has come down, in some cases very substantially. In only around 20 countries has the total duration of dealing with “red tape” gone up. The sixth-worst case is none other than the U.S., where the total number of days has increased by 18% to 433. Other members of the bottom 10, using this metric, are Zimbabwe, Burundi and Yemen (though their absolute numbers are of course much higher).

Why is it getting harder to do business in America? Part of the answer is excessively complex legislation. A prime example is the 848-page Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of July 2010 (otherwise known as the Dodd-Frank Act), which, among other things, required that regulators create 243 rules, conduct 67 studies and issue 22 periodic reports. Comparable in its complexity is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (906 pages), which is also in the process of spawning thousands of pages of regulation. You don’t have to be opposed to tighter financial regulation or universal health care to recognize that something is wrong with laws so elaborate that almost no one affected has the time or the will to read them.

[...]Each year, the World Economic Forum publishes its Global Competitiveness Index. Since it introduced its current methodology in 2004, the U.S. score has declined by 6%. (In the same period China’s score has improved by 12%.) An important component of the index is provided by 22 different measures of institutional quality, based on the WEF’s Executive Opinion Survey. Typical questions are “How would you characterize corporate governance by investors and boards of directors in your country?” and “In your country, how common is diversion of public funds to companies, individuals, or groups due to corruption?” The startling thing about this exercise is how poorly the U.S. fares.

In only one category out of 22 is the U.S. ranked in the global top 20 (the strength of investor protection). In seven categories it does not even make the top 50. For example, the WEF ranks the U.S. 87th in terms of the costs imposed on business by “organized crime (mafia-oriented racketeering, extortion).” In every single category, Hong Kong does better.

At the same time, the U.S. has seen a marked deterioration in its World Governance Indicators. In terms of “voice and accountability,” “government effectiveness,” “regulatory quality” and especially “control of corruption,” the U.S. scores have all gone down since the WGI project began in the mid-1990s. It would be tempting to say that America is turning Latin, were it not for the fact that a number of Latin American countries have been improving their governance scores over the same period.

Whatever the root causes of the deterioration of American institutions, smart people are starting to notice it. Last year Michael Porter of Harvard Business School published a report based on a large-scale survey of HBS alumni. Among the questions he asked was where the U.S. was “falling behind” relative to other countries. The top three lagging indicators named were: the effectiveness of the political system, the K-12 education system and the complexity of the tax code. Regulation came sixth, efficiency of the legal framework eighth.

Asked to name “the most problematic factors for doing business” in the U.S., respondents to the WEF’s most recent Executive Opinion Survey put “inefficient government bureaucracy” at the top, followed by tax rates and tax regulations.

The troubling thing to me is that the private sector has to make a profit in order to fund government, and I don’t see that the private sector will be able to producing the profits needed to fund our government’s lavish spending. Nothing that I see about the next generation causes me to believe that they understand economics enough to vote to improve the business climate. They seem to be very much anti-business. One wonders where they expect to find jobs.

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New study finds that Obama’s regulations cost $46 billion per year

From the Washington Examiner.


Some 10,215 new federal regulations from the Obama administration are costing consumers, businesses and the economy overall $46 billion annually, more than five times the regulatory price tag of former President Bush in his first three years in office. Worse: just implementing those regulations had a one-time additional cost of $11 billion, according to a Heritage Foundation analysis provided to Washington Secrets.

Ironically, Bush instituted more regulations, 10,674, but they cost just $8.1 billion annually, said the Heritage report, titled “Red Tape Rising: Obama and Regulation at the Three Year Mark.” It will be released Tuesday.

The analysis backs up complaints from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups that the president’s regulations are stalling the economy and employment growth. It also calls into question Obama’s promise to put the brakes on new regulations and his State of the Union bragging about issuing less red tape than Bush.

The fact is, said Heritage’s review, hundreds more costly regulations are coming, especially those targeting energy companies and Wall Street. They threaten “to further weaken an anemic economy and job creation,” said Heritage’s James Gattuso and Diane Katz.

[...]The $46 billion price tag calculated by Heritage is staggering, as are those hitting the economy the hardest. Just consider the regulations tagged as “major” for costing $100 million or more. Obama’s team issued 106 on private industry since taking office, compared to 28 by Bush. Last year alone, Obama’s administration issued 32 major regulations impacting everything from clothes dryers, to toy labels.

Heritage said that most expensive regulation of 2011 was from the Environmental Protection Agency, which added five major rules costing $4 billion. Among them, stricter limits on industrial and commercial boilers and incinerators, for a cost of $2.6 billion annually for compliance.

The regulations are also hitting workers through higher fees on items such as checking accounts.

The link to the Heritage Foundation study is here. The title of the report makes me think of “Red Storm Rising“, an excellent novel written by conservative author Tom Clancy.

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Women in business report that regulatory uncertainty hurts job growth

The Independent Women’s Forum explains what happened at a panel discussion of women CEOs.


Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers hosted a panel discussion on Capitol Hill today that focused on the economy and job creation.  All of the panelists were CEOs.  All of them were women.

In their opening remarks, one word was mentioned by every panelist: uncertainty.

Another word, that went hand-in-hand with the uncertainty that America’s job creators are facing was “regulations.”  This word was also mentioned by every panelist.

Sandra Parrillo, President & CEO of Providence Mutual Fire Insurance, said that, as a property and casuality insurance company, they are very familiar with risk.  This year has been unprecedented in the amount of claims they’ve paid out due to an usually high number of natural disasters.  But Parrillo said her company faces enough uncertainty from nature; they don’t need uncertainty coming from Washington, DC, where hundreds of new rules are being written – often to solve problems that don’t really exist.

Lisa Hook, President & CEO, Neustar, Inc., said, “The outcome of the budget is less important to us than that there is a budget.”  Her company is traded on the stock market, and she says that the uncertainty fueling the ups and downs of the market, often driven by headlines from D.C., affects her business and her borrowing costs.

Several of the panelists derided Congress for failing to pass a budget for FY 2011.  They want to know that Congress is working to get its fiscal house in order.   They want to know what to expect from the executive branch as well, rather than having to readjust their budgets to deal with costly new regulations as soon as they are written.

Alison Brown, President & CEO, NAVSYS Corporation, went on to explain how difficult it is for small businesses to find access to working capital.  She said, “I have had to become my own bank.”  Her company isn’t publicly traded, and she pointed to Dodd-Frank and Sarbanes-Oxley as two laws that have wrestled working capital from the hands of small business.

Catherine Heigel, President of Duke Energy South Carolina, echoed the sentiments of the other panelists.  She also pointed out Duke Energy would like to repatriate their foreign earnings, but without reform, they would face an effective tax rate of over 50 percent.  All of the panelists agreed that certainty (that often comes from having more cash available) could be restored to the American economy with regulatory reform, tax reform, and health care reform.  They pointed to these three areas as the areas that currently are most burdensome to businesses.

In many ways the panel today was depressing.  All of the CEOs recognized that we are in a tough time, and all of them expressed disappointment that they could not expand and add more jobs in the current business climate.

There is a problem on the left where they have this idea that they can seize profits, control businesses, impose politically correct agendas, and engage in judicial activism and businesses will just keep hiring, producing and so on. It’s the ultimate narcissism. Bureaucrats are so busy spending other people’s money and making speeches about how generous they are that they completely forget who is paying the bill.

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New regulations causing fishermen to suffer massive financial losses

From WMUR in New Hampshire. (H/T Gateway Pundit)


Fishermen on New Hampshire’s Seacoast are warning that new fishing regulations could destroy their industry and have already caused them severe emotional stress.

[...]“If they don’t do something to modify the fishing regulations, we won’t have a fishing industry on the Seacoast, is what it boils down to,” said Hampton Town Manager Fred Welch.

[...]The new regulations are known as “catch-share.” The team said they are not there to look at possible changes to the rules but rather to see what effects they are having.

[...]“One of the fishermen from Rye had said that there had been three suicide attempts and a half dozen divorces during this first year of catch-shares,” said Bob Campbell of the Yankee Fisherman’s Cooperative. “Commercial fishermen are usually pretty tight-lipped, and for something this serious to come out, I mean, you know that the whole situation is grave.”

Campbell said the cooperative has lost about $750,000 in business since the new regulations went into effect.

“We’re off 1.1 million pounds of fish from last year, and over a million and a half pounds from the year before,” he said.

This is what regulations made in Washington do to a business running in New Hampshire.

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What causes rich Democrats to lay off Americans and ship jobs overseas?

First off, I spotted this American Spectator story by Robert Stacy McCain on The Other McCain.


California Democrat Rep. Jane Harman’s family business is laying off American workers – including engineering employees in California – and shifting jobs overseas.

A letter from the human resources director of one Harman company, obtained exclusively by The American Spectator, describes a “permanent” layoff of dozens of California workers that went into effect last week.

[...]Harman is the third-richest member of Congress, and her net worth increased last year $40 million, according to a study of Federal Election Commission records conducted by The Hill newspaper. Her husband, Sidney Harman, founded Harman International Industries, which was valued in 2007 at about $8 billion.

[...]By May 2009, the company had already slashed its U.S. workforce by 900 and expected to make more than a thousand more layoffs by mid-2010, according to a Saturday Evening Post article that noted: “[W]hile shutting down U.S. facilities, Harman was simultaneously opening factories in China and India, as well as massive multimedia outlets in Dubai and New Delhi.”

She’s a rich Democrat… and she is shipping American jobs overseas? Why???

Well, California is an anti-business state and it’s run by socialist Democrats who hate businesses and capitalism. (H/T ECM)

But what about other countries? Why do they ship jobs overseas?

Look what is happening in New Zealand with the new Hobbit movie. (H/T Anon)


At least half a dozen countries, including Australia, are lobbying to win the right to film The Hobbit and Hollywood accountants are now doing the numbers of rival offers, the movie’s co-producer and co-writer Phillipa Boyens says.

The $US150 million Sir Peter Jackson blockbuster has been mired in an industrial dispute in recent weeks, following complaints from a group of international labour unions over poor on-set working conditions for actors.

Jackson, who strenuously denies the claims, has accused the Australian-based Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance of bullying to gain control over the production, which he says may be forced out of New Zealand.

Boyens told New Zealand’s National Radio’s Nine to Noon programme the movie was ready to begin filming in January but has now been thrown in turmoil by the actors’ boycott.

She said New Zealand Actors’ Equity seemed to believe the whole thing was a bluff.

“I am concerned over some of the statements made… by New Zealand Equity that there is still a misunderstanding on the seriousness of what is involved here and what is at stake,” she said.

“That is very real and that has put at risk the livelihood of countless thousand New Zealand industry workers,” she said.

Scotland, Ireland, Canada and Eastern European countries had entered the negotiations in a “feeding frenzy” inspired by the threat of union action.

And it’s not just left-wing anti-capitalist governments and unions that cause outsourcing and shipping jobs overseas.

It’s the uncertainty caused by massive spending, constant interventions, anti-business regulations, the appointment of radical anti-capitalists and judicial activists to positions of power.

Here’s a story from Reuters.


Tough budget measures to keep its international bailout on track have helped prompt thousands of Romanian companies to relocate to neighboring Bulgaria, where lower taxes and more stable regulations offer an easier place to do business.

Bulgaria has corporate and income tax on profits of just 10 percent, compared with Romania’s 16 percent, and now also has lower value added tax after Bucharest hiked its rate as part of efforts to meet the conditions of a 20 billion euro EU/IMF bailout.

Sofia has also cut red tape and initial capital for setting up a company is now 2 levs ($1.39), compared with a previous 5,000 levs and 200 lei ($63.55) in Romania. It takes less than a week, almost half the time needed in Romania.

That may seem like small beer, but business people say the speed of the changes forced by the bailout and uncertainty over future cuts in Romania have encouraged them to move base.

Bulgarian authorities have not released precise data, but local media report up to 2,500 Romanian companies have set up there already and another two are registering daily in the border city of Ruse alone.

“Romanian legislation and taxation are changing from one day to another. So how can I have any guarantee, any certainty if I open a company here?” said 23-year-old Bogdan Popescu from Bucharest, who wants to open an online television business.

“I could as well wake up with a 40 percent income tax tomorrow (instead of 16 at present),” said Popescu, who plans to put his headquarters in Bulgaria. “The present fiscal legislation is in no way a stimulus.”

The two Balkan countries share a long border and though links can be complicated — only one bridge connects the states along a 470 kilometer (294 miles) stretch of the Danube — companies can set up a paper headquarters but still effectively run operations from Romania.

Both suffered deep and painful recession after 2008′s financial crisis, but while Romania is having to cut spending and raise taxes, Bulgaria previously ran large fiscal surpluses and has enough reserves to keep taxes low despite dwindling revenues.

Whenever government and their union supporters make life difficult for businesses, the businesses leave. Governments and unions ship jobs overseas. Governments and unions outsource jobs to other countries. Businesses just dance the the tune that governments and unions play. It’s no use complaining about big corporations and rich greedy executives. If you want a job then you promote the conditions that will attract businesses. Left-wing unions, left-wing political parties, left-wing news media and left-wing judges attack businesses, and that’s why unemployment goes higher.

And businesses know that massive government spending is going to require higher taxes or printing more money to that will devalue savings. They are not going to expand in banana republic economies like the United States until we vote a large enough number of Democrats out of all three branches of the federal government.

What I resent is when rich Democrats create the legal conditions that require companies to outsource and then complaining about outsourcing while engaging in outsourcing themselves. That’s hypocrisy.

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