Jobs and the economy are the major issues on the minds of Tennesseans. That’s understandable. It’s hard to care about much else if you don’t have food or shelter or are living on the brink of having neither. So when asked what the “government” was going to do about unemployment, newly installed Governor Bill Haslam said, “I don't think we’re going to solve Tennessee’s unemployment issues with legislation. I just don’t.” And he’s right. Government does not create jobs in that it does not produce anything.
But, wait, you say, “That’s not right. When the state builds a new road, it’s creating jobs.” Yes, the people building the road have a job, but the government didn’t create or produce anything. Why? Simple. It is paying those building the road with other people’s money. The government can “rearrange” where money is spent, but it doesn’t produce wealth in a real and true sense.
Oh, government can make people wealthy, and we have to look no further than the increase in wealth that takes place when someone gets elected to Congress. And it can make people wealthy by taking money from a lot of people, like taxpayers, and reallocating into the hands of a few who own the businesses that governments hire to do things like build roads. But the government is not producing any wealth but merely reallocating it.
In other words, the government takes our money, money you and I and 100 other Tennesseans might have spent on new kitchen counters, and uses it to pay for the new road. So, there may be a new job in the road business, but one may have been lost within the industry that makes and installs kitchen cabinets. And the reason that job is lost is because the money is no longer out in the marketplace to be spent on cabinets. Thus, the government didn’t “create” any new job. It simply dictated, by its spending, what jobs the market was going to have.
What the governor rightly wants is an environment that frees business from as much government regulation and entanglement as possible so that business is free to do what it does best — produce wealth — which is another way of saying jobs and income, which is another way of saying growing the economy.
Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey, a small businessman himself, said what most business people really want when it comes to government: “Absolutely nothing. … Leave me alone. Get out of the way, and I’ll create jobs. All I want for government is to get out of the way.”
Curbing the Overreach of Local Governments
Now, to be honest, many industries and businesses do lobby on the Hill for competitive advantages over other industries and businesses. And sometimes the bigger businesses lobby to make competition from the smaller businesses harder. And the government needs to resist that, too.
So, it’s ironic that one of the best things state government can do for business is pass new legislation. But in this case it is legislation that prevents more legislation. Sounds like an oxymoron, but here’s the deal.
Some local governments have begun to try to do what all governments tend to do, namely, arrogate power to themselves. In other words, some local governments are beginning to assume more and more power, and when they do, government becomes bigger and bigger and regulates more and more. And when that happens, the state needs to step in and say, “No more. Stop.”
That’s exactly what SB 632/HB 600 does. It tells local governments to stop going beyond state law by imposing new and additional regulations on businesses. It tells local governments to stop the kind of interference with intrastate commerce that can come when each of the 95 counties and the hundreds of cities across the state start coming up with new rules that businesses must follow.
Any business in Tennessee is free to do business anywhere in the state and should be encouraged to do so. But if every city and town in Tennessee can start dictating to employers the terms and conditions for the employment and management of their personnel, then businesses will be choked to death trying to figure out what kind of policies they have to have to do business from one locale to another. Just figuring out a morass of regulations will add cost to business. It’s akin to the doctor’s office that has to hire people just to keep up with what all the various insurance companies with their different policies cover and require.
Unfortunately, folks like the mayor of Nashville and some members of Metropolitan Council of Nashville and Davidson County don’t get it. Right now Nashville is attempting to put additional regulations on businesses. Specifically, it is poised to pass an ordinance that says that if a business wants to be a vendor with Nashville or if it wants to lease property or facilities from Nashville for more than six months, then that business will need to make it a policy not to “discriminate” against its employees on the basis of their homosexual conduct or their engagement in activities that give expression to the gender they perceive themselves to be (in other words, things like cross-dressing at work).
Such a “little” change in the law may sound innocuous. The sponsor even has the audacity to tell citizens that adding an additional legal requirement is not a “regulation” of business. But it is a regulation of business, and it is not innocuous, even if liberal politicians don’t know it.
Even the Federal Government Knew Better
There are a number of well-documented concerns about legislation of this type. In fact, even with a Democratically-controlled U.S. House and Senate and Democrat for President, the U.S. Government didn’t pass similar legislation at the national level. The national bill, called the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), is a primary goal of those advocating the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered agenda. Yet ENDA wasn’t passed into law by the very same liberal, pro-homosexual Congress and President that are against the Defense of Marriage Act and pushed the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
SB 630/HB 600 attempts to reign in overreaching and overregulation by local government. It states that local governments cannot impose mandates on businesses that go beyond what state law requires with respect to anti-discrimination protections, health insurance, minimum wages, and grounds for taking “family leave” from work. Imagine the nightmare for businesses if every business that wanted to do business in multiple locations had to figure out what kind of minimum wage that government required.
But not only that, consider that essentially one local government will be dictating to every other local government what the rules are. For instance, assume Nashville were to say that a business with whom it is doing business has to pay a minimum of $10/hour. And assume the City of Clarksville, which has no such minimum wage law, does business with the same business, which means that but for the Nashville work, this business could otherwise pay the lower federal minimum wage. What is the result? The City of Clarksville will have to pay more for the goods and services it buys from that business. This, in turn, results in a higher tax burden on its residents. And why is this so? Because the business cannot have one wage for an employee who is doing work on a job for Nashville and have a different wage for that same employee who is also working on a job for Clarksville.
This is not good for business, nor is it good for taxpayers. Losing one’s job because of excessive government regulation while your taxes go up is a bad combination. Let’s hope our legislators agree with Governor Haslam and Lt. Governor Ramsey and pass one straightforward law that will prevent a whole lot more job-killing laws.
Losing one’s job because of excessive government regulation while your taxes go up is a bad combination. Let’s hope our legislators agree with Governor Haslam and Lt. Governor Ramsey and pass one straightforward law that will prevent a whole lot more job-killing laws.