Friday, September 05, 2003

Corrupting the Social Contract

See how many small business myths you can find in this one short article. And then ask yourself what century these guys think they're living in? (I've provided hints and heated commentary at the end.) How much would you wager that they were "briefed" by NAM or NFIB before the meeting?

Small businesses speak up

By Jane Hodges
Times Snohomish County bureau

MONROE — The state just created a $3 billion incentive package to keep its biggest employer, Boeing, but what can it do to improve the economic climate for small businesses?

That was the question that state Rep. Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, asked small-business owners and managers at a round table in Monroe last week. The feedback, he said, would help him create a small-business to-do list for the next legislative session in Olympia.

"I was raised in a family of small-business owners, and I'm very concerned about the small-business environment," he said, noting that he once ran a small construction business. "Most of the employees in the state are employed by small businesses."

Many owners and managers lamented the state's traffic snarls and inadequate road network. They also said the state needs to address tort, or liability, reform in order to reduce the potential for frivolous lawsuits.

A tort-reform bill that addressed liability in construction, in medical practice and for employer references failed during the last legislative session.

The small-business people also cited costly and time-intensive permitting processes and complex regulations.

Deanna Taylor, a co-owner of a Ben Franklin variety store in Monroe, said she and her husband had wanted to expand their business but hesitated because of concerns about the permitting process.

"We have grown with this community since 1975," she said. "It's not that we don't want to invest in the future."

Business owners also provided Kristiansen — and representatives from the state Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development — with some additional concerns they'd like the Legislature to address during its next session. Among them:

• Reducing fees associated with workers'-compensation and unemployment insurance.

"We're one of three or four states in the union that don't let employers buy private insurance," said John Dacy, vice president and controller of Monroe-based Canyon Creek Cabinet. "This (insurance industry) is a state monopoly."

Clarifying or eliminating a state requirement that businesses secure "UL" (Underwriters Laboratories) certification on electrical machinery.

Though business owners said they wanted to comply with safety standards, they said stringent UL codes and inspections can require them to rip out and rewire new machinery just to comply with UL codes.

Ken Boyer, senior vice president of operations at Canyon Creek Cabinet, said he thinks only a handful of states require manufacturers to follow UL codes. He said his company will spend $350,000 on UL-related upgrades to equipment worth $1 million, even though some of that equipment is new.

• Considering loosening or altering forthcoming ergonomics regulations that could raise operating costs at some businesses.

Ron Wise, a supervisor at 35-year-old State Roofing in Monroe, told Kristiansen that ergonomics laws scheduled to go into effect next July would prohibit individuals from lifting weights more than 50 pounds from off the floor — a problem because State Roofing's materials are typically packaged in parcels that weigh more.

Wise said the new rules would mean the company would have to double its staff to handle the same workload, reducing its profits.

"This will kill the small companies first and then the big ones," Wise said. "All the roofing companies we've dealt with over the years feel the same way."

• Improving economic-development programs.

Douglas Roulstone, senior vice president at Thomas James International, which owns machining companies in Monroe and Wenatchee, noted that the state loses tourism business to Canada and Idaho every winter during snow season — despite the state's popular slopes — because Washington lacks the resort-style lodging those other locations have.

To satisfy concerns of environmental groups, Roulstone said, developers could temper new construction with commitments to offer proportional preservation efforts, perhaps funding preservation of a set amount of forest acreage for every acre of new construction on rural land.

"In the long run, you get the environmentalists and preservationists to support you," Roulstone said. "Maybe you give them a percentage of the profits (to further preservation work).

"When somebody articulates a clear vision, it's easy to get behind it."

Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company


Give me a break: Not only have they bought into the ergonomics lies, but they can't even deal with UL certification. And of course we need to get rid of unemployment insurance and we sure as hell can't afford workers comp (especially with all of those musculoskeletal injuries once we get rid of the ergonomics standard). And we can't have anyone suing us, no matter what hazardous products we may produce. And we sure don't need no stinkin' permits! Only the ski guy makes the slightest bit of sense.

These are almost all of the elements of worker and consumer protection that this "civilized" society has produced over the past 100 years. In this day and age, ALL of these should be considered a normal cost of doing business. And most small business people probably would consider them to be normal costs of doing business if they weren't indoctrinated by the ideological warfare being waged by the punch-drunk Bush-era business associations and right-wing Republicans who think they can get away with anything as long as they sound compassionate and keep saying how concerned they are with all of those poor, unemployed working stiffs.

And speaking of lies, check out this article (found in Tapped) by David Greenberg in the Washington Monthly about why journalists, who usually love to pounce on lying politicians, seem to let Bush get away with whoppers. Here's a taste. Read the whole thing:
To the axiom that journalists love lies, however, there's one important corollary -- and it helps explain Bush's Teflon coating. Reporters like only certain lies. Perversely, those tend to be the relatively trivial ones, involving personal matters: Clinton's deceptions about his sex life; Al Gore's talk of having inspired Love Story; John Kerry's failure to correct misimpressions that he's Irish. Here, the press can strut its skepticism without positioning itself ideologically.

The lies reporters dislike, in contrast, center on what are usually more important matters: claims about public policy -- taxes, abortion, the environment -- where raising questions of truthfulness can seem awfully close to taking sides in a partisan debate. Most of Bush's lies have fallen in this demilitarized zone, where journalists fear to tread.