Thursday, November 03, 2011

You just can't get away from regulatory.......

After graduate school I began looking for a job in.....??????  I didn't really know what I was looking for. Have you ever noticed that when you don't know what you are looking for you rarely find something that really satisfies you? This does occasionally occur but more often than not a person who is looking haphazardly for something doesn't find anything worth finding.

I landed a job in regulatory affairs at a large research chemical supply company. Looking back, although the position was not intellectually satisfying or even all that challenging, I learned something that I didn't identify until now: The power and importance of regulatory affairs in the American economy.

As I read articles about the economy and regulatory affairs I realize how the problems I encountered in my little cubicle in chemical supply pervade the regulatory climate that encumbers the banks, the housing market, high-tech ventures and other businesses.

Problem number one:
Companies do not want to follow the rules (especially new ones) because they must spend money to comply with these rules. If they invest money in meeting the demands of these rules they risk having the rules repealed only to find their monetary investment was for nothing. (Unfortunately, for the peon (that would be me) in the cubicle monitoring the regulations, this can drive you crazy. The system is messy, disorganized and totally unsatisfying to work within.)

For this reason, companies stall in following regulations that are new or poorly enforced. What is the point when it cuts in on their  profit?

Problem number two:

There are some regulations that nobody understands or that are so old nobody can remember the original purpose. It becomes a total waste of time to follow these: a bureaucratic nightmare to figure out which sucker in the organization keeps a database geared toward following such nonsensical and ridiculous regulations.

While this applied to me in my little cubicle in research science it applies to the high-tech world as well. In two different editorials in the Wall Street Journal on Oct 31 the problem of regulations and green cards is addressed. Why is it that we send foreign graduates of engineering and physical science programs back to their countries after they complete their degrees? Even in this weak economy we are short on engineers in the US. The editorial states that Steve Jobs could have moved manufacturing jobs from China back to the US if Apple could hire 30,000 engineers in the United States. We don't produce enough engineers here in the US (by the time we send all our foreign graduates home) to keep jobs here.
The current green card policy is a stupid rule that not only fails to serve a purpose, it actually harms our economy and (as the article states it) gives an unintentional gift to China of jobs/business.

Part of the problem here is a failure to communicate and work as a team.
I liked how Newt Gingrich summed up the problem in one of the GOP debates recently. He said something like this: The gridlock in Washington is best summed as avoiding something totally stupid by cutting off your head if you don't allow your leg to be cut off. So we will allow something semi-stupid to avoid something totally stupid from occuring. (In reference to the super-committee and the impending automatic budget cuts in the event they can't come to an agreement.)

This is relevant because the super-committee must come to an agreement about how to streamline current regulations that strangle the economy. I just hope we have insightful enough politicians to be able to maturely tackle the problem without too many political games and other wasteful behaviors. 

We must have leadership that can work with businesses on this problem. Regulations must make sense and be comprehensive of the needs of businesses. We must be able to enforce regulations and have the enforcers have a logical reason to implement the rules. Stupid rules have no place in American business.

We need leaders who act in the best interest of the country: this includes private business, private citizens personal lives and public government needs. Do we have enough integrity as a country to select leaders who can manage all of these needs simultaneously while also preserving their proverbial political neck? This is a tall order- one I'm glad I'm not committed to achieve. Why would anyone want to run for such political office?