Over the past two weeks, the House of Representatives has been inundated with an alphabet soup of anti-regulatory legislation. Last week, the House debated and voted on the RAA (Regulatory Accountability Act) and RFIA (Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act), and this week on the REINS Act (Regulations in Need of Scrutiny from the Executive Act).
These bills sound tame enough, but beneath the innocuous names and clever acronyms, each of these proposals would bring about major overhauls of rule-making, undermining the processes that establish rules of the road for the financial sector, environmental and health standards, and other safeguards that promote a level playing field and economic stability.
While being promoted on the pretext of helping small businesses, the fact is that these proposals would only shift risk and shift costs from big businesses – including Wall Street banks, big polluters, and big insurance companies – to small businesses.
In survey after survey and interview after interview, Main Street small business owners confirm that what they really need is more customers – more demand – not deregulation. Policies that restore the local business customer base are what small business owners need from Congress, not policies that shift more risk and more costs onto small businesses from big corporate actors.
Small business owners in the Main Street Alliance are taking on the mythology of deregulation. MSA leaders sent an open letter to the House of Representatives last week pointing out why regulations are needed to level the playing field for small businesses. Kelly Conklin, a leader with the New Jersey Main Street Alliance, was quoted in a congressional fact sheet about small business, jobs, and regulatory issues. And Jim Houser, co-chair of the Main Street Alliance of Oregon, had a guest column in the Des Moines Register recently calling deregulation in the name of small business a form of identity theft.
When the Main Street Alliance asked small business leaders to share their take on the debate about jobs, regulations, and small business, here’s what some of them had to say:
Kelly Conklin, co-owner of Foley-Waite Associates, a custom woodworking business in Bloomfield, New Jersey:
“These bills are just the next example of attempting to shift risk and shift costs from big businesses to small businesses. These bills would gut rules and standards that protect small businesses, the communities where we live and work, and the customers we rely on for our livelihoods.
“I’d like to know, how will rolling back financial standards and allowing another financial crisis help small businesses? How will rolling back environmental rules and allowing another BP spill help small businesses? To hear these proposals being marketed in the name of helping small businesses, it’s just infuriating. This is small business identity theft – using our good name to push an agenda that benefits narrow special interests at our expense.
“Once again the political ambitions of a few are being placed above economic recovery, environmental common sense and the health and safety of small business owners, our employees, and the communities we serve.”
Jim Houser, owner of Hawthorne Auto Clinic in Portland, Oregon:
“These attacks on basic regulatory standards are misguided at best. They completely miss – or ignore – the fact that standards and regulations create jobs and support innovation.
“Just look at my industry, auto repair. In our sector, smart, focused automobile emission standards protect the air we breathe, provide needed employment for the nation’s repair technicians who keep our vehicles running clean, and promote innovations that help U.S. companies be on the cutting edge of new automotive technologies.”
Garry Ault, owner of All Makes Vacuum in Boise, Idaho:
“I’ve been trying to sell my small business and retire for over a year. I had to cut the selling price back to the point where I would make only $1,500 more than I paid for my business in 1980. Why? Because of the policies of the last 20 years that deregulated our financial sector, encouraged reckless gambling on Wall Street, and precipitated the 2008 financial crisis and this Second Great Depression small businesses are struggling to pull through today.
“Deregulation is a scam – it helps the big guys at the little guy’s expense. Our politicians have got to know that by now, and if they do then there’s just no excuse for pushing this agenda that’s going to hurt small businesses even more.”
Melanie Collins, owner of Melanie’s Home Childcare in Falmouth, Maine:
“Deregulation that helps narrow, big business interests – like banks, insurers, and oil companies – has the reverse effect on small businesses, who are the majority of our job creators. Compromising environmental protections and the ability to maintain healthy communities with a healthy customer base is counterproductive to small business job creation and an economically vibrant future.
“What small businesses need are customers – Americans with spending money in their pockets – not deregulation that gives big corporations free reign to cut corners, use their market power at our expense, and force even more small businesses to lay people off and close up shop.”