“Government is killing small business,” said Bob Bertsch, who closed his longtime construction business in Washington State and auctioned off his assets. The problems: taxes and overburdensome regulations. I know what he’s talking about—and so do too many Americans.
As Bertsch was selling off his company’s assets, he mentioned a fact that will resonate with my fellow small business owners from across the country but that may be surprising for others: "I am tired of carrying all the tax load ... I renew 13 licenses here every year just so I can spend money in this city."
That’s a baker’s dozen of forms—and fees and payments—just to have the privilege of continuing to struggle to make payroll. Which he won’t be doing anymore—and, he says, “We used to have 24 employees at our peak. Now, all of those people who used to work here are in unemployment lines.”
Is the case an outlier? Hardly.
Recently, a crane company owner drew attention for writing that there is a “New Company Policy: We are not hiring until Obama is gone." He added, "Can't afford it … I've got people that I want to hire now, but I just can't afford it. And I don't foresee that I'll be able to afford it unless some things change in D.C."
Indeed, these statements of frustration at seemingly unfair and definitely onerous rules out of the nation’s capital are far more reflective of a national trend than the administration dare acknowledge.
In particular, there is a growing focus on the ties that bind (or in this case, the red tape that restricts beyond reason). In late October, small business owners from across the country told Gallup that trying to comply with regulations is the most important problem facing them today—topping confidence in the economy and lack of consumer demand.
And the concern is spreading. Figures from non-profit The Public Notice in September found that three-fourths of likely voters say businesses and consumers are over-regulated. Seven of ten say increasing the number of regulations on American businesses will result in more jobs moving overseas.
Then there’s the tax man, who commeth too often. There are, of course, the looming tax hikes if Congress and the President do not act by 2013, but as in Mr. Bertsch’s case, those looking strictly at federal tax rates miss much of the picture. Localities, counties, and states chip away with fees, taxes, and their own red tape nightmares.