Is it just me or do Republicans really not care at all about being anything close to correct about what they rant about? On Tuesday, Jeb Bush had an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal, How I’ll Slash the Regulation Tax. He wrote, “To understand what is wrong with the regulatory culture of the US under President Obama, consider this alarming statistic: today, according to the World Bank — not exactly a right-wing think tank — the US ranks 46th in the world in terms of ease of starting a business.”
As a long time micro-businessman, let me respond: what a crock! The regulatory problems with running a business are all about state and local laws. I’m particularly annoyed by inventory taxes here in California. They really should be set up so that, for example, computer refurbishers can keep a small amount of hardware around without having to keep track of it for tax purposes. For people like me, this isn’t about the money — which is negligible — but about the hassle of it. There are other things too, like the fact that you can hardly move a block without the sales tax rate changing. There is much else, but none of it has to do with the federal government — much less President Obama.
I’m not surprised that Bush doesn’t know about this kind of thing. The way business works at the bottom rungs of the economy really is hidden from the likes of Bush and Trump. There are millions of little businesses around the US and they don’t have much to do with the way that business is taught in school or practiced in the Fortune 500 companies. It’s a hell of a lot more like Bob’s Burgers. Maybe Bush should spend some time watching that show — he might learn a thing or two.
But it turns out that Jeb Bush was just being deceptive. If you look at the actual World Bank rankings, you will find the following table. You will have to click on it to read it. But what it shows is the top ten countries where it is easiest to do business. There are ten factors listed that go into this. The overall ranking of the US is 7th. All Bush did was find the subcategories where the US did the worst and talk about that. It’s just despicable behavior.
Kevin Drum did a bit of a deep dive into the subject and he noted a few things. For really large economies, the World Bank just looked at two cities. In the case of the US: New York City and Los Angeles. They aren’t exactly representative, but okay — that’s good to know. But then Drum compared the US versus New Zealand, which ranks first on “stating a business.” It turns out that in New Zealand you can start a business in a half of a day, but it takes four days in the US. This isn’t actually starting a business, of course, “It’s solely about registering a new business.” In other words, the most trivial part of starting a new business.
But I thought that Drum’s conclusion was particularly important, “As for the outrageous regulations he promises to repeal on Day One, this would mostly just benefit big campaign donors, not the yeoman entrepreneurs he claims to be sticking up for.” Of course! Because Jeb Bush isn’t interested in people starting new businesses; he’s interested in allowing profitable existing businesses to make even more money. There’s a name for what Bush promises: crony capitalism.