Why are we killing the goose that lays the golden eggs?

Business owners and managers can be forgiven if they’re convinced there’s a determined plot afoot in our country to go after the proverbial geese that lay the golden eggs — if not to kill the geese outright, then substantially hamper egg production. How else to explain the various regulations and rulings affecting everything from energy production to development to labor management?

While everyone clamors for more jobs and a more robust economy — a rising tide to lift all boats — they too often forget businesses create most new jobs, not metastasizing government bureaucracies. The more challenges and uncertainties businesses face to their continued operations and profitability, they less likely they are to expand operations and staffing. Make no mistake: Businesses face challenges.

Consider, for example, just a few of the latest efforts coming out of Washington, D.C., to substantially reduce carbon emissions from power plants and lower ground-level ozone levels. And now, a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board threatens to hold companies responsible as joint employers for the actions of employees of franchises and subcontractors. Even as politicians and bureaucrats promulgate additional rules, environmental and labor groups pursue litigation.

While an environmental assessment appears to permit for now the continued operation of a coal mine in Northwest Colorado and saved more than 200 jobs there, the coal industry remains under fire. Even if cutting carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants in the United States reduce so-called greenhouse gases contributing to what’s believed to be global warming, what about the increased use of coal-fired generation elsewhere on the planet? It would be different if the United States were a separate ecosystem from the rest of the world, but that’s not the case. There are significant costs, too, associated with higher utility prices and less reliable power. Natural gas offers one possible alternative to coal. But solar and wind power generate only a fraction of the needed electricity and come with problems of their own.

Proposed reductions in federal ground-level ozone standards could impose additional challenges to the Western Colorado economy, in particular the energy, construction and transportation industries. Areas deemed to violate standards would be required to develop and implement plans to impose new restrictions that could limit economic development and effect transportation projects. The existing standards, by the way, are less than a decade old and by most accounts have worked well in reducing ozone levels.

Meanwhile, a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board has ramifications for franchises and contractors. The board determined that corporate parent companies could be considered joint employers under circumstances in which they could potentially exercise indirect control over employees through an intermediary or reserved authority. Prior to the ruling, companies were deemed joint employers only if they exerted direct and immediate control over employees in determining hiring and firing and setting hours. Business groups have lambasted the ruling for potentially forcing companies to assume responsibility for not only their employees, but also the employees of franchise and contracting companies owned and managed by others. And that could discourage companies from franchising or hiring contractors, in turn effecting opportunities for entrepreneurs.

In the proverb, a greedy couple killed the goose that laid the golden eggs in the mistaken belief the bird was full of gold. In reality, politicians, bureaucrats and interest groups are killing businesses that provide jobs and sustain the economy in their zealous efforts to exert what they believe to be needed controls.

There’s a moral to the story, isn’t there?