Comparing entrepreneurial roadblocks to applying for food stamps


Tom Schultz, director of the Idaho Department of Lands, told a legislative interim committee that investments from the endowment lands produced a record return in fiscal year 2014.

Tina loves the restaurant business. A fanatic about food, she aspires to one day compete on a TV cooking show. For now, this 20-something chef at a restaurant in Pocatello has a dream to open her own eatery offering a menu of family recipes that celebrate Idaho cuisine.

How many government agencies and boards must Tina talk to before she can open her doors? Let’s do a count: planning and zoning board, health department, Idaho State Tax Commission, IRS, alcohol regulators, Department of Labor, State Insurance Fund. Have I missed any? My mistake, but if Tina misses one, do you think the government agency she missed will be very forgiving?

And this is in “business friendly” Idaho. But let’s say Tina decides to give up on her entrepreneurial aspirations to go on government assistance, say, food stamps. How many government agencies shall Tina need to speak to? One.

Is there a problem here? I’d say so. And I hope you would, too, regardless of your political disposition.

Government makes starting a business difficult to impossible. That’s why politicians, including those in Idaho, create new programs supposedly designed to help businesses. They’re seemingly unaware they’re creating programs to help offset their failed policies.

On Friday, Rep. Frank Henderson of Post Falls peddled the last government gimmick of capitalism for the well-connected. Speaking to the local Pachyderm Club, Henderson explained how state lawmakers voted to set aside $4 million to lure businesses to the state, pay for their infrastructure, offset some of their costs and maybe abate their taxes.

Such, of course, necessarily requires government boards to sit in judgment of businesses and decide where to place their bets. Shall the government help business X with 20 employees earning $65,000 a year on average, or help business Y with 50 employees earning an average of $25,000 a year?

And typically, very typically, government picks poorly. Witness the news this week from Pocatello that the parent company of the polysilicon manufacturing plant Hoku Materials has filed bankruptcy and the plant, on city-owned property, has been shuttered.

In 2007, the city brokered a deal with Hoku leasing the property to the now-defunct company for $1 for 99 years, and the government offered $17 million in employment incentives and rebates of taxes paid on its investment, according to records. What does the city have to show for it? An empty building on 24/7 lockdown.

Government rolls out the red carpet for big business, gambling your money on bad bets, hoping you will forget that it is your money locked up in that vacant plant and vacant parking lot, or on loans that will never be repaid, or on jobs that will never be filled.

Tina, of course, with her restaurant dream, is a blip on the radar, of little to no interest to government planners. The government won’t roll out anything for her. No special programs. No incentives. And worse, she gets to pay for government’s failed attempt at job creation in her hometown, resulting in higher taxes and more economic impediment to the opening of her restaurant.

When Tina’s dreams fade because of government intervention and ineptitude, at least she knows nothing stands in the way of her path to food stamps. Maybe that, at least, will give the politicians something to brag about.

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