Cutting red tape, building for the future
We can build our own future
By Steve Chabot
We’ve always been a nation of builders. That’s why American construction and the phrase, “Made in the U.S.A.” is a source of pride for so many people. It’s a reminder that, if we want, we can build our own future. These days, a lot of people feel they can’t build their own futures. It’s not for lack of ideas. It’s because of the burden of federal regulations.
Tracking federal regulations under this administration is a full-time job that most small businesses don’t have the resources to do, especially if they’re focused on creating, innovating, engineering and imagining the next step in their business plans.
In a survey by the National Association of Manufacturers last year, 88 percent of manufacturers said federal regulations were a real challenge. When the National Federation of Independent Business surveyed its members, they overwhelmingly responded that “government requirements and red tape” are the biggest problems they face.
In a recent hearing we held at the Small Business Committee, we heard from employers who told us firsthand what all of that red tape means for their communities. One of them was Jan Herschowitz, who runs a company with her mom and sister in Pennsylvania, specializing in metalcasting. Jan’s family business looks a lot like most in the construction industry – employing a small people who invest years of their lives working with neighbors they know in the communities they’ve built.
I was glad Jan came to testify, because she was able to put in real-life terms the impact of a rule most of my colleagues and I had only heard about: the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) proposed crystalline silica rule. With this rule, OSHA is seeking to limit exposure to one of the most common minerals found at any construction site, mandating changes in the way businesses that work with this material every day operate.
New cleanup requirements and equipment to comply with this rule could easily cost a small business like Jan’s more than a million dollars. What’s even more alarming is that OSHA’s proposed requirements, which are ostensibly aimed at reducing adverse health risks, could potentially expose workers to greater safety risks, because the proposal bans certain work practices.
No one is against better safety measures and the health of American workers, but handing down one-size-fits-all rules for industries that are sustained by small businesses that can’t bear the financial burden of compliance will cost jobs and hurt families, plain and simple. Most of the time, the federal government doesn’t consider these families, individual employees, and small business operators when they craft these rules. If the federal government were to work with small businesses, they might be able to come up with solutions that small businesses could live with that solve problems instead of creating new ones.
That’s why I hope the Senate will soon take up the Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act. We passed this bill in the House earlier this year to bring our regulatory system into the 21st century and stop putting small businesses at a disadvantage. The regulatory burden falls most heavily on small businesses because they have to carry compliance costs just like their larger competitors, but with only a fraction of the resources. The Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act would give small businesses the input in the regulatory process they should have had all along. That input can’t come a moment too soon.
One of the best things about being a Member of Congress is that we get to hear many perspectives. We talk to small business owners and employees at home, and we get to see how other countries approach their regulatory processes. While many of our international economic competitors are making way for innovative, cutting-edge reforms, the United States has changed little about the way it regulates since the 1980s.
If we want to remain a global economic leader, we have to modernize. We have to stop making small businesses like Jan’s and others that are literally building our neighborhoods, towns and cities the biggest losers in an economy that desperately needs them to succeed. Making small business employers, workers and families a part of the solution is the best place to start.
About the Author
Congressman Steve Chabot (R-OH) is Chairman of the Committee on Small Business.