Monday 24 Oct 2016

Cutting the Red Tape
AJ Robinson

These days, what with the tough economic times, and in honor of Labor Day, I thought I might pause to offer a few choice words and observations regarding work. Many politicians and pundits love to give long speeches. I tend to think what they truly love is the sound of their own voice, but that's just my opinion.

Their speech deal with what they think will help small businesses. We hear that they need tax breaks, that they need tax cuts. Small business, they say, need a "holiday" from payroll taxes or some other such thing.

Here's something I noticed over twenty years as a civil engineer. What I've seen among small businesses, the real killer that keeps knocking these companies down, is government regulations.

Now, we need certain rules, don't get me wrong, I'm not an advocate for just cutting all regulations and letting businesses do as they wish. Adult entertainment shouldn't be near schools or churches, industrial processes should be away from residential areas, and proper parking, safety and health and utility requirements fully observed.

Yet, when it comes to small businesses, maybe we should give them a break. I once had a client, a dear woman, whom I won't call her old, she might read this and not like my adjective, who wanted to convert an old model home into a beauty parlor. The building was in the right zoning. It was away from a heavy residential area. It had easy access to the main road.

Oh, but government red tape got in the way.

Because she was going to operate a business in the building, she had to do the following: provide adequate parking, draw up plans for a storm-water retention pond and get a permit to build it, provide handicap parking and access, have enough restrooms in the building and have enough parking for her employees.

This woman simply wanted to employ three friends to give haircuts, do facials, style and dye women's hair. Maybe she'd give the occasional shampoo.

I remembered a report I'd seen on business operations in - I think - Hong Kong or Singapore. To open a business, you filled out one form, and that was it - you could open up shop any place you could find. Granted, that's a little too free and open; as I said, we do need some rules.

Yet, it made me think, couldn't we at least create some exemptions, some, for lack of a better phrase, sort of cut-off point? If a business grosses less than a certain amount of money, each year, you don't have to get certain permits. If a company employees fewer than 4 women and men, which is way above the average, you don't have to get certain permits.

I always think of that poor woman: getting plans for a parking lot, showing a handicap parking space, a ramp into the building, designing a retention pond and so on. As the woman pointed out: she really only needed ten parking spaces; one for her, three for her employees and then three for whoever was getting their hair done and the next three customers.

Yet, rules stated otherwise.

The rules, sometimes, maybe often, are such a waste and a pain. Rules may be an honest impediment to any new small businesses, getting started. So, if the politicians are serious about helping small businesses, forget all the claptrap about cutting taxes, again, just makes it easier to get a business off the ground. These days you just about have to be wealthy to start any little enterprise.

Somehow, I don't think that's the American way.

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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