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  • Shooting Our Own Eye Out

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    This column originally appeared in the February 5, 2018 edition of the San Fernando Valley Business Journal

    I was watching A Christmas Story with my kids recently, and it rang a little too true. You will recall that our hero, Ralphie, really, really, really wants a Red Ryder BB gun – and when he gets it, he nearly shoots his own eye out.
    I think that all kids have this experience to some extent. Happily, my own kids haven’t shot their own eye out (yet) but as kids grow up, they learn the lesson that not everything they want is necessarily good for them. Even as adults, we get tempted – I’d love to run with the bulls in Spain but on reflection, it’s probably not a good idea.
    Our legislators really, really, really want to micromanage every aspect of daily life for California, and eliminate any element of risk or exposure for anyone. Like a Red Ryder BB gun, I can see the appeal. But trying to do that means shooting the eye out of California. We need risk to drive innovation; we need an element of exposure to grow.
    A strong economy is how we gain stable, good-paying jobs, and it will be driven by business owners with a vision turned into reality. A little corner café; a new product; or an innovative way of providing a service: the economy is grown by these women and men who put their heart into their business.
    A strong economy doesn’t come from the government. It’s funny how progressives say that our current President has nothing to do with the growing economy, but then they argue that the state government has the power to create new opportunities for employees. 
    A strong economy can’t be legislated into existence. There’s no law that businesses have to hire, and there’s no law that businesses have to stay in California. Legislators are trying to make crappy jobs better – but they should be trying to make crappy jobs obsolete.
    In a strong economy, there will be so many good jobs that employees won’t be stuck in a job at the bottom that they don’t like. Entry-level jobs are called that for a reason: people should be doing them for a couple of years and then moving on to new, better opportunities. No one should be trying to support a family on an entry-level job.
    Unfortunately, in our current economy, many people are trying to survive on an entry-level job. I agree with our legislators that this is bad. But making it more expensive to hire an entry-level employee doesn’t result in lots of well-paid, stable jobs flipping burgers. It means machines flipping the burgers and college kids without any way to get their first job.
    Legislators look backwards at the past to legislate the future. They’re trying to preserve what used to be middle-class jobs, and that might help employees for a couple of years. But the biggest disruptions in our lives have been the ones no one anticipated, and the government should take a step back to allow new types of jobs to flourish.
    The Legislature is taking steps to incentivize behaviors but we know from experience that’s not how it works. Try to make it harder to employ people part-time? Those jobs won’t turn into full-time jobs: they’ll be the last push businesses need to invest in new technology so they need fewer part-time workers.  
    Rather than spending their energy on threading the regulatory needle, business leaders should spend their energy on growing, and hiring, and rejuvenating their communities.
    And to do that, they need legislators to take a step back. Don’t shoot the eye out of California!
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