Friday, January 21, 2011

Business-friendly? Friendly to which businesses?

One of the current political buzzwords is "business-friendly" or more likely "business-unfriendly".  "Business friendly" generally means minimum or no interference with businesses or giving of breaks, tax or otherwise, to businesses.

Although some consider "business-friendly" to mean "people-unfriendly", one "business-friendly" act for one business can be "business-unfriendly" to another business.

I read a case of this in today's Star Tribune, "TCF gains in fight over debit-card fee limits", 2011-01-21.  TCF and other banks are complaining that new Federal Reserve rules on exchange-fee limits will hamper their profits.

However, other businesses complain that the exchange fees cut into their profits.  And of course, the exchange fees may cut into people's pockets with higher prices.

It wouldn't surprise me that many of the proponents of higher fees see no conflict with their call for lower taxes.  It's all right for businesses to raise prices when their costs go up but not all right for government to raise taxes when its costs go up.

Another example of one business' gain being another business' loss is fuel costs.  Maybe the producers will have more profits, but the truckers and the airlines, will have higher costs.  The fuel users will do their best to raise their prices, but another fuel user, the governments that clear the snow will be constrained.

Maybe we should have a mantra to match "No new taxes" with a people-friendly "No new prices".

The same issue of the Star Tribune reports that the newly elected governor of Wisconsin want to increase the setback for wind-farms, "Wind showdown".  On first glance, this would seem a business-unfriendly move.  But I suspect it's only towards a new business many Republicans don't like - alternative energy.

Were these politicians opposing a high-voltage power line when many Wisconsin residents were fighting against it?  The line went across, not near, their property, and they were forced to sell the right-away at a cost determined by others.  Doesn't sound very free market to me.

I wonder if the Wisconsin Republicans will bend to the popular will if there is land-owner opposition to a new nuclear plant.