I wanted to share a couple of anecdotes with you to illustrate the very real shackles that are holding our economy back. As some of you know, I own a 66 Dodge Polara that I’ve spent several years and several thousand dollars restoring.
Owning an old car like that requires a trustworthy, inexpensive mechanic to work on it. When I bought my old clunker I was referred to one in Hialeah. Over the years my mechanic did a lot of work on my cacharro, including rebuilding the engine. I became quite friendly with him and during my visits to his shop I passively observed the difficulty of running a shop like his. Permits, insurance, inspectors, certifications, etc. etc. All of that plus the usual overhead like rent and payroll. Well, long story short, my old car was parked in the garage without moving for an extended period of time. I finally got around to calling the mechanic to let him know I was coming in and he told me he had closed up shop, he’d come to me instead. Now, this is typical of what’s going on with small business. It’s being driven underground. The current business environment is prohibitive to set up and keep up a shop. This is not the first time I’ve seen this. The guy that sold me the audio system for the same car became a friend and he always complained about the same permitting and inspection issues. Last time I saw him he said, “it’s not worth it, I’d rather just go mobile and drive around to referrals in an unmarked van.” As these businesses go underground the remaining above-ground bricks and mortar shops will bear an increasing burden and eventually more of them will go underground too. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. We’re regulating commerce to death.
Here’s another little personal story. I was talking with someone in my office the other day about the chicken industry in America. I’m talking about the farmers that raise chickens and sell them to grocery stores and the food service industry. The biggest cost of raising chickens is the cost feed and the feed of choice for chickens is corn.
According to this person (an expert on the matter) the cost of corn has historically hovered in the $2.50 a bushel range. Today it’s at $7.00. Can you guess why? Because corn federal ethanol mandates currently require that 50% of the corn crop be used for fuel. So here we are, not drilling for oil on our own land and burning up our food as fuel for our cars. By the way the fuel created from corn is more expensive, less efficient and probably more environmentally damaging than gasoline from oil. But corn ethanol has become a sacred cow to Democrats and Republicans alike. So what happens when we live in a world of $7 a bushel corn? Chicken farmers lose money. Several US chicken companies have already sold to foreign investors. Some will end up closing up shop. Eventually the price of chicken will have to rise. All because the government is interfering in the market for one of the most important inputs.
So there you have it. Two examples, one micro and one macro, of the stifling power of government. It’s sad to say but it’s hard to imagine that any president or any party can undo what has been done over generations to make our economy so backwards and inefficient.