Every day, another media personality or politician criticizes Charles and David Koch. Even our two Minnesota senators — Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar — regularly attack these two brothers, as has their boss, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who called them “un-American.” The Kochs, who have created hundreds of thousands of jobs and donated hundreds of millions to charity, earned such scorn for promoting free-market policies.
I agree with the Kochs. In my career, I have competed with them in several businesses. My wife and I have come to know them well since I retired. We’ve since joined with them and hundreds of other entrepreneurs and business men and women as members of the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce.
We share a common vision: a society where opportunity and innovation improve well-being for everyone. We want to protect the American dream for future generations.
I believe the American dream is worth defending because my wife and I have lived it. I started as a junior employee at Cargill Inc. in 1966. For more than 40 years, I worked with highly motivated teammates to build farmer-focused businesses. We shared the excitement and satisfaction of working hard together to serve our customers better than our competition — we have since returned a good portion of our success to our communities.
That’s what we stand for as Freedom Partners. We believe that everyone should be free to chart his or her own path to success. They should be free to start and grow a small business into an economic powerhouse. And they should be free to do all of this without politicians and bureaucrats blocking the path.
But this is increasingly difficult. Washington is actively hobbling entrepreneurs and small businesses with excessive and burdensome regulations.
I’ve seen this firsthand in the energy and agricultural sectors. The Environmental Protection Agency now regulates nearly every square inch of a farmer’s field. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration wants in on the game, too, as do many other federal agencies. Together, they’ve created a regulatory web that traps farmers and anyone else involved in agriculture.
Complying with regulations is never cheap; they inevitably raise farming costs and therefore food costs. Our farmers’ ability to compete in global agriculture markets suffers as a result, while small businesses can’t get off the ground.
Beltway bureaucrats are strangling the entire industry in this red tape, assuming that they know better than local farmers and entrepreneurs how to run the family business.
A similar regulatory crusade is taking place in our country’s energy sector. In recent years, innovators in oil and natural gas production have developed breakthrough technologies — such as directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing, to name a few — that have moved energy producers into new and exciting territory.
The result has been a dramatic increase in annual energy output, reduced costs at the pump and at the grocery store, and more jobs. Take just one example from my line of work: U.S. nitrogen fertilizer production is rapidly increasing. Each new plant creates thousands of skilled, well-paying jobs and contributes millions of dollars to the economy.
This and other booming energy sectors are the direct result of energy entrepreneurs. The entire country, especially the poor and the middle class, is benefiting from it.
But bureaucrats are trying to block them every step of the way. The EPA’s various anti-coal and anti-natural-gas regulations have severely handicapped innovators’ freedom in the energy industry. Elsewhere, regulators and politicians at every level of government want to ban hydraulic fracturing even though it’s directly responsible for our country’s energy boom. Washington also refuses to approve the Keystone pipeline, which would facilitate U.S. exports and create middle-class jobs without harming the environment.
These are just a few examples of how Washington is standing in the way of the American dream, from which I benefited immensely. The companies I worked for and founded have been successful precisely because they weren’t stifled by a regulatory system run amok.
Every American deserves the same opportunities. Along with the Kochs and the other members of Freedom Partners, I believe that Americans’ individual innovative genius trumps any rule or regulation. But the current generation — to say nothing of future ones — won’t be able to repeat and surpass our success if Washington keeps standing in the way.
Fritz Corrigan is a member of the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce and the retired founding president and CEO of the Mosaic Co. He previously served as the executive vice president at Cargill.