July 27, 2011

"What's the use?"

Ronnie Bryant, a Birmingham coal operator speaks and, by chance,  David McElory was there and heard him.

‘I’m just quitting’: A scene right out of ‘Atlas Shrugged’ in Birmingham

I was at a public hearing in an inner-city Birmingham neighborhood for various government officials to get public input on some local environmental issues. There are several hot topics, but one of the highest-profile disputes is over a proposal for a coal mine near a river that serves as a source of drinking water for parts of the Birmingham metro area. Mine operators and state environmental officials say the mine can be operated without threatening the water supply. Environmentalists claim it will be a threat.
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After Bryant listened to all of the business-bashing, he finally stood to speak. He sounded a little bit shellshocked, a little bit angry — and a lot frustrated.

My name’s Ronnie Bryant, and I’m a mine operator…. I’ve been issued a [state] permit in the recent past for [waste water] discharge, and after standing in this room today listening to the comments being made by the people…. [pause] Nearly every day without fail — I have a different perspective — men stream to these [mining] operations looking for work in Walker County. They can’t pay their mortgage. They can’t pay their car note. They can’t feed their families. They don’t have health insurance. And as I stand here today, I just … you know … what’s the use? I got a permit to open up an underground coal mine that would employ probably 125 people. They’d be paid wages from $50,000 to $150,000 a year. We would consume probably $50 million to $60 million in consumables a year, putting more men to work. And my only idea today is to go home. What’s the use? I don’t know. I mean, I see these guys — I see them with tears in their eyes — looking for work. And if there’s so much opposition to these guys making a living, I feel like there’s no need in me putting out the effort to provide work for them. So as I stood against the wall here today, basically what I’ve decided is not to open the mine. I’m just quitting. Thank you.

“McElroy comments,

The only thing I’m sure of is that what I saw today is a broken process and a sham. We all want a decent environment in which to live, but when various people at a public meeting — including federal officials and community members — talk about “environmental justice” and make it clear that their intent is to make it harder for businesses to operate, well, I can see why a businessman would decide to quit. I consider myself an environmentalist — because I want to live in a safe, secure, clean world — but what I saw isn’t reasonable concern for the environment as much as it’s an ideological agenda.

Via Mollie Hemingway at Ricochet who read the comments.

... reader after reader talks about how running a small business is a thankless task made impossible by the burden of various regulations. My friends who run small businesses have reported horror stories about the difficulties they face in running a business while jumping through regulatory hoops. We need to find a better balance.

There is hundreds of billions of capital on the sideline not creating jobs because of uncertainty over regulations, taxes and the ability of the government to solve the problems of too much spending and too much debt.

It may indeed be, and I think it is, a "crisis of the old order " as economist Robert Samuelson writes today in the Washington Post

We have left our collective comfort zone. Ideas and institutions that, on the whole, served well since World War II are under a cloud. .... Governments everywhere are striving to protect the old order because they do not understand and fear the new.

Right now it's the uncertainty that is blocking economic growth as Dan Juneau, president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry,  writes

Uncertainty is the bane of economic recovery. It is the main reason the Great Depression lasted for a decade. It is a major reason why the current economic slump continues. Business owners and investors do not create jobs when they fear factors beyond their control that could impact their profitability. Those factors abound at the moment.

A mammoth government intrusion into health care, rife with mandates and complex government regulations, sits in limbo in the courts. Businesses simply do not know at this point what the impact on their bottom lines will be if the law is upheld. The Obama administration’s energy policies are killing domestic energy jobs while driving energy prices higher for businesses and consumers. The majority of businesses in the U.S. are non-union. Obama’s appointees to the National Labor Relations Board continue to try to muscle through pro-union regulations that Congress has refused to enact. Free trade agreements sit idle in Congress, agreements that can expand American exports and create jobs.

The one element that absolutely will reduce the federal budget deficit and the national debt is a rapidly growing economy. That won’t happen as long as our national economic policies put the public sector first, continue to create uncertainty, and throw roadblocks in the path of business investment and job creation. The June employment figures are a testimony to that fact.   
Posted by Jill Fallon at July 27, 2011 3:54 PM | Permalink