What makes a jungle a scary place? It's probably fear of what might happen—not so much of what has happened. Uncertainty feeds paranoia, and paranoia forces one to lose focus. Without focus, a person is more likely to find himself in a dangerous spot.
Upton Sinclair observed those dangers firsthand when he went undercover for several weeks in 1904 in the Chicago stockyards. The journalist observed the dangers that unskilled workers had to cope with every day, the sickness that was rampant among the workforce, and the abuse that was heaped upon the workers by greedy company management. Back then the workplace could be a deadly place for someone that didn't have his wits about him.
Sinclair's book The Jungle, published in 1906, brought these conditions to the attention of most Americans and eventually led to legislation that set federal standards for meat and food inspection. Sinclair actually wanted the book to generate more interest about worker safety and well-being—which didn't really happen until several years later.
Today workers in the food processing industry and consumers aren't consumed with the dangers associated with delivering food to the dinner table. People go about their lives without too much thought of whether or not someone died getting that pot roast to the table.
Nearly 100 years since The Jungle was published, manufacturing company owners and managers find themselves in an environment where they don't know what's ahead and they are handicapped in their decision-making. They are having to deal with more and more federal regulations, and that's causing them to focus more time on that than on their own businesses.
"Macroeconomic Impacts of Federal Regulation of the Manufacturing Sector," a report prepared by NERA Economic Consulting, found that federal agencies under the Obama administration are issuing an average of 72 major rules annually targeting the manufacturing community. Under the Bush led White House, the agencies approved an average of 45 such rules.
And that's on top of manufacturing regulations already in effect. The same study, commissioned by the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation (MAPI), revealed that the federal government has drawn up almost 2,200 manufacturing regulations since 1981. Stephen Gold, president/CEO of MAPI, called this type of regulatory environment "death by a thousand cuts."
The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) is concerned as well. In recently months it has initiated its own study of six major Environmental Protection Agency regulations that have either gone into effect or are nearing approval. NAM believes manufacturers will need to spend $404.5 billion to $884.5 billion to comply with those standards. In the face of the dramatic shift away from coal-burning power generation and more reliance on natural gas, many EPA critics are even wondering whether the agency's own studies that led to these new regulations are still relevant.
In this economy, the one thing that is relevant is jobs. This jungle of federal regulations isn't one where U.S. citizens can be physically injured, but it may kill their ability to create jobs or find work. These laws meant to protect individuals are slowly killing the manufacturing industry in this country.