Government Red Tape is Tying the Hands of the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs

Buckle your seatbelts because Millennials are set to change the business landscape in America. That’s largely because we’re an odd bunch, and we’re a big odd bunch at that – the largest generation in American history.  We’re incredibly individualistic, have grown up in a world where information is not only instantaneous but is readily available anywhere with a wi-fi connection, and we’re not really into the whole delayed gratification concept.

Older generations likely read that sentenced and cringed at the technology-driven changes that have shaped our generational ethos.  And yet a complete shake-up may be exactly what is needed to usher prosperity back to a United States economy that has hewn a little too closely for a little too long to the industrial age, factory-style approach to creating things.

For better or worse we appear to be the most entrepreneurial generation ever. Rising up the corporate ladder with the constant carrot of “partnership” or “ownership stake” dangling in front of us just isn’t as much of an incentive as it used to be. Studies show that Millennials only stay with a company for two years on average, compared to five years for Gen Xers and sever years for baby boomers. Instead, we want to start our own business.

A 2011 poll conducted by the Young Invincibles in conjunction with Bellwether Research found that 54 percent of Millennials want to start a business or have already started one. The desire is even stronger among minorities, with 64 percent of Latinos and 63 percent of African-Americans wanting to become entrepreneurs.

The problem is that we’re consistently running into roadblocks along the road to our own version of the American Dream. Obviously, the sluggish economic recovery, which has spooked investors and made money scarce, has been one of the largest problems. The down economy has also had downstream effects like high student loan debt and a lack of the institutional knowledge that comes from having a job.

Nevertheless, young people are convinced something can be done. The poll also showed that 65 percent of Millennials say making it easier to start a business should be a priority for Congress. It’s no surprise then that we’re frustrated when any semblance of an economic agenda has been completely replaced by Obama’s pet projects.

Maybe that’s because Obama feels like he can’t get anything done with this Congress. Maybe the only ideas he’s got involve throwing massive amounts of taxpayer money into the air and calling it stimulus. Or maybe he just trusts Ben Bernanke way, way too much. Whatever the reason, it isn’t good enough. Young adults want to change the world, but the current generation of leaders and their old-style, top-down, big-government driven framework don’t allow for the kind of creativity (and capital) we need.

One of the biggest problems, and the best places for Congress to start would be clearing out the thicket of rules and regulations that strangle entrepreneurship and weigh-down fledgling businesses. A recent report by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) highlights the enormity of the problem. According to their data the total costs for Americans to comply with federal regulations reached $1.806 trillion in 2012, more than the entire GDP of Canada. Combined, those regulatory costs amount to $14,678 per family – 23 percent of the average household income.

Those costs are driven by the insane pace of new regulations being issued by the Obama Administration. CEI’s data shows that 4,062 regulations were at various stages of implementation last year and completed 1,172 – a 16 percent increase since the previous year. Those rules added 78,961 pages to the federal register – not quite the all-time high Obama set in 2010, but still an immense regulatory burden faced by entrepreneurs who simply want to turn an innovative idea into a great product.

To be fair, many regulations are needed to protect unwary consumers, the environment, etc. But after decades of both parties adding stacks of new rules each year, and rarely taking the time to go back through them all to see which ones no longer make sense, many businesses are facing real trouble. For example, the Economist points to the serious problem in hospitals, in which for every hour spent treating a patient at least 30 minutes is spent on paperwork. That’s in large part because of ridiculousness like federally mandated categories of illness in injury, including nine codes relating to injuries caused by parrots and three relating to burns from flaming water-skis.

Millennials can change the economic landscape. We can bring our individuality, our creativity and our ingrained sense of entrepreneurship to bear on the economic doldrums that plague America. But to even have a chance our hands have to be untied from the red tape that is holding us back.