Sometimes I wonder if government recognizes the unintended consequences of regulation. Sometimes I wonder if they even care. We have all read the stories of the effects the economy, the bailouts and the stimulus package are having on business.
We hear of the massive layoffs at major financial institutions and car companies. We see government react to fix the problems it created to try to restore these individuals’ companies and businesses. But I keep asking myself: What’s the difference if a government action (or inaction) causes one company to lose 5,000 employees, or if a government action causes 50 companies to lose 100 employees? Same amount of people out of work, same amount of families who will struggle, same impact in loss revenue to federal coffers, same amount of people getting unemployment benefits. So with these kinds of smaller losses happening all over the country, why do we not see this Congress and this administration jumping through hoops, holding press conferences to fix the problems they created for these smaller businesses?
I thought about this after the announcement recently that one of Maine’s great assets is closing its doors after more than 100 years, directly because of government regulation. The former Stinson Seafood plant in Gouldsboro — bought by Bumble Bee Foods in 2004 — is the last sardine cannery in the entire United States and it is closing. Why? “A reduction in the federal limit on herring was the main reason behind the company’s decision,” according to a Bumble Bee Foods spokesperson in “After century of business, former Stinson Seafood plant closing” (BDN, Feb. 17).
So the feds in a few years cut in half the amount of fish allowed to be caught and 128 people lose their jobs. In addition to the obvious implications of the job losses, this will have a drastic impact on the small town with a population of just 2,000. But I don’t hear Congress or this administration rushing to help the industry, holding a hearing to review the regulation that is closing this company or a rush to throw stimulus money to save these people’s jobs and this community’s economy. This story embodies the problem of not just overregulation, but wrong regulation.
Yes, I do believe there has to be some role of government in regulating. We need to protect consumers and we need to protect the environment. I don’t want giant unfiltered smokestacks on every corner. I don’t want big banks to be able to do what they want with customers’ retirement accounts and lose it all. I don’t want cars and machinery to be unsafe or businesses to be able to take advantage of employees and not pay fair wages.
But when the regulations intended to protect end up hurting our own citizens, isn’t it time to change the regulations? When possibly good-intentioned regulations instead hamstring an entire industry and put people out of work, shouldn’t that regulation be nixed?
This administration and Congress have spent the last year searching for new ways to regulate us, and almost every single one would do us more harm than good. Cap and trade: job killer and largest tax increase on individuals and businesses this nation has ever seen. The public health care proposal: Increase costs for most people, massive tax and cost implications for businesses already struggling, government intervention between doctor and patient.
Flawed regulation and overregulation are killing the industries of Maine from the forest areas to coastal regions. It is our jobs as citizens, as voters and as Mainers to let Washington know that our closed factories, our exporting of timber to Canada, our massive job loss may not get the national headlines of Detroit, but affect us just as severely. We need Washington to get out of the way and let us do what we do best: work hard and succeed.
Jason Levesque is an Auburn small-business owner and Republican candidate in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District. His Web site is www.levesqueformaine.com.