Of course, these days aren’t the toughest the nation has come through. It still isn’t the Great Depression. Our mortgage interest rates haven’t topped 17 percent lately. Inflation is still mostly in check. And we still have that good old American can-do attitude.
We’ve triumphed before. We can do it again.
We have a history of making do. Most of us have immigrants in our bloodlines — some more recent than others. Our ancestors often came with little but the shirts on their backs. They took menial jobs, lived in crowded tenements, studied English at night, opened small businesses in their homes until they expanded into “real business,” which now bring us many of our most-loved goods like soda, computers and restaurant chains.
In the past, after a time, immigrant kids were enjoying the fruits of their parents’ sacrifices by attending college and moving out of the old neighborhoods to better parts of town. In fact, we often cite such family history as an argument against coddling today’s immigrants.
Should we try to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps today, getting along until times get better again? Doubtless past generations gained from their hard lives. The struggles were incentive to value education so their children’s lives would be better than their parents. Immigrant children quickly learned English because they had no choice. Families bonded through their struggles.
The problem is, the past isn’t the future. Have you tried lately opening or running a small business, especially from your home? First, the neighbors would complain to the civil authorities. Next, the civil authorities would be knocking on the door to see your business licenses. The assessor would send you a tax bill for your business assets. Government entities would refuse to use your business because it didn’t employ union members. Child welfare agencies would investigate whether you were using child labor. And that’s just for starters.
The fire marshal would check for adequate exits, extinguishers and other fire code requirements. City inspectors would traipse through to inspect furnaces, wiring, ventilation and. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and consumer safety commissions would be waiting in line.
And heaven help you if your business involved the time-honored family businesses of food preparation. What with the health department, the sanitation department, the does-it-taste-good department (OK, there’s not one of those yet, but give them time).
Go into the taxi or the hauling business and you could be denied permission if the local government thinks there are already enough taxis or haulers. Finally, here comes the lawsuit because your business doesn’t provide handicapped access. And this does not even include the taxes imposed on business and individuals.
Clearly, some of those regulations are good. I appreciate, for example, knowing the local eatery has passed a health inspection. But what this means is that the old method for us to get back on our feet by ourselves is just not very simple or cheap anymore. Especially in California.
In September, two business professors at California State University, Sacramento, published a report titled “Cost of State Regulations on California Businesses Study.” Their 85-page report summarized the effect of California regulations on employment, profits, taxes and more based on 2007 statistics. The picture painted is not pretty.
Generally stated, California is the worst state overall for entrepreneurs. The bottom line of the study is that the direct and indirect cost of regulation in this state translates to more than $134,000 annually per small business, and for each California resident an average of $13,052 per year. The study estimates the price includes at least one less job per small business, which factors to 3.8 millions fewer jobs in California thanks to regulations.
No one argues to get rid of all regulations or taxes. There are legitimate safety concerns and quality-of-life matters involved in zoning and such. However, California has distinguished itself by becoming, if not the worst, then one of the worst enemies of business. According to this study, the state ranks worst for personal income tax on small business owners, worst for capital gains taxes and state gas taxes, fourth worst for state government expenditures and worker compensation costs, sixth worst for utility costs and five-year government spending trends, seventh worst for highway cost effectiveness, and eighth worst for corporate capital gains taxes and health insurance mandates.
There’s more in the top-10 worst states, but you get the picture.
We have a choice here. We can pressure our legislators to ease off pressure on our native creativity and energy and let us rebuild the economy, or we can continue to sink in the private sector and hunt for jobs in what seems to be the only thriving sector of our economy: government employment or government grants.
• Pamela Case, a local freelance paralegal, is among a select group of local residents with columns in the Tracy Press.