2 months ago

So you want to start a business

Economic freedom allows people to buy, sell, invest and use their property to pursue life goals. Many Americans aspire to exercise this freedom to start a business. Where someone wants to open this new business makes a big difference for the burden of government licenses, regulations and taxes.

The Center for the Study of Economic Liberty at Arizona State University’s Doing Business in North America report sheds light on this. The study extends the World Bank’s Doing Business project. The ASU study measures things like the number of approvals necessary to open a business and restrictions on hiring or firing workers.

The study focuses on barriers facing small and medium businesses, the types of firms which entrepreneurs start and try to grow. Most of these government rules are well-intended and likely beneficial. Still, failure to get proper permissions could at least temporarily shut down a new business.

The study tracks 63 different provisions for 115 cities across the U.S., Canada and Mexico, including Birmingham for Alabama. The World Bank project includes only New York and Los Angeles in the U.S. For economists studying economic freedom, Doing Business North America explores how business regulation varies across states.

The index includes six categories: starting a business, employing workers, getting electricity, registering property, paying taxes, and resolving uncertainty. Bankruptcy is as important as starting a business or hiring because many new businesses fail. Indeed, many eventually successful entrepreneurs initially fail, like Henry Ford. If entrepreneurs cannot get a fresh start, they may never put the lessons learned from failure to use.

Cities’ scores range from 0 (worst) and 100 (best). A city with the best policy on each component would get a score of 100, while a city with the worst policy on each would score 0. A score of 60 is roughly 60% of the best policies.

The U.S. and Canada are two of the world’s freest economies according to the Fraser Institute, while Mexico ranks 76th. Not surprisingly then, the 39 Mexican cities rated occupy the lowest ranks. Although the U.S. and Canada have similar national economic freedom scores, the top American cities outrank Canadian cities; Canada’s top city, Halifax, ranks 53rd.

Across America, Oklahoma City ranks first with a score of 85, or about 15% off the best policies on average. Arlington, Virginia, Sioux Falls, Boise and Atlanta round out the top five. San Francisco is America’s lowest ranked city (77th) with a score of 59.

Birmingham places 22nd with a score of nearly 80. Birmingham’s business environment is much closer to Oklahoma City’s than San Francisco’s. Its highest ranks are in the bankruptcy (tied with many cities for 1st), employment, and taxes categories, with its lowest ranks in starting a business and electricity. How do other Alabama cities compare to Birmingham? The Johnson Center is working with the Center for the Study of Economic Liberty on this.

The impact of legal and regulatory burdens likely depends on an entrepreneur’s background. Many Americans can navigate rules; we know that things like building permits and business licenses exist and how to get them. We know how to hire a lawyer or accountant if needed. Americans with lower incomes and less formal education are often unfamiliar with legal compliance. Even reasonable rules restrict their economic opportunities and possibly deprive us of their innovative ideas.

The biggest limitation in measuring economic and business freedom, I think, involves uncertainty about obtaining permission. Some permits require significant paperwork and processing time but will eventually be issued. Permits for things like liquor licenses and new construction are granted by public boards subject to citizen pressure. Political pushback can be hard to predict. The difficulty of quantifying such uncertainty about securing permission limits measuring the full burden on entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs create the new products, services and innovations that increase our prosperity. Thankfully, freedom to start a business and succeed or fail based on your merits still exists in much of America.

Daniel Sutter is the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics with the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University and host of Econversations on TrojanVision. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Troy University.

56 mins ago

7 Things: Trump extends social distancing to April 30, bleak outlook with the coronavirus ahead, Rogers wants medical equipment manufacturing done in America and more …

7. Trump handling of the economy and favorability hit all-time highs

  • Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump are locked in a dead heat, according to a new poll, but that poll also shows there has been a “rally around the flag” moment for President Trump with the president receiving his highest average approval rating (47%) and rating on the economy (57%) of his presidency. 
  • Granted, the approval numbers are not great, but he has never been able to get great approval from Democrats, including when he was a candidate. It also doesn’t help that the mainstream media have been on a mission to destroy his presidency from day one. 

6. Florida stopping people from coming in

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  • In an effort to crack down on travel to Florida and slow the spread of the coronavirus, there have been checkpoints set up on the state line, including Alabama’s border with Florida. 
  • At checkpoints, people will have to provide the address of where they intend to quarantine themselves for two weeks. Florida has also stopped vacation rentals for at least two weeks due to the number of people who were going to the state because of coronavirus lockdowns. 

5. Alabama could be getting medical supplies from South Korea and Apple

  • On behalf of Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed, the Hyundai Motor Corporation is requesting that the South Korean government send medical supplies to Alabama to assist in fighting the coronavirus. 
  • Governor Kay Ivey has announced that Alabama healthcare providers have received 63,000 masks from Apple to help in the coronavirus outbreak. 

4. China is still lying

  • While the American media is cheering the fact that America now leads the world in reported cases of the coronavirus, U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) reminds the world that the Chineses government lied when all of this started and is still lying now.
  • Senator Cotton made it clear, and minced no words, saying, “The Chinese Communist Party is still lying.” He added, “They say they’ve only had 2,500 cases that resulted in deaths or so, yet a single mortuary has ordered more than 5,000 urns. You can look at these basic facts to know that the Chinese Communist Party is still lying today, as they were in December and January, and that’s why what could have been a local problem in Wuhan turned into a global pandemic from which more than 2,000 Americans have now died”

3. Rogers wants more medical equipment made in America

  • U.S. Representative Mike Rogers (R-Saks) has come forward with the idea that the United States needs to be producing 50% of “personal protective equipment, medical devices that we use in this country” domestically.
  • Rogers has argued that this would be a measure we could take so that we aren’t reliant on China, reasoning, “They literally own the marketplace for a lot of this medical equipment, personal protective equipment and devices.” 

2. Dr. Fauci thinks there could be 100,000 deaths

  • Director for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci was on CNN on Sunday to discuss the coronavirus in the United States, and Fauci said they don’t have a “firm idea” about how the virus could grow in America. 
  • Fauci went on to say that he thinks there will be 100,000 to 200,000 deaths and millions of coronavirus cases in the country but added that “it’s such a moving target that you could so easily be wrong and mislead people.” There are currently serious problems in New York and New Orleans.

1. Social distancing guidelines extended until April 30

  • With 140,000+ instances of the coronavirus and 2,400 deaths in the United States thus far, President Donald Trump has announced that he is keeping his proposed social distancing guideline in place another month, saying, “Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before victory is won. It’s very important that everybody strongly follow the guidelines.”
  • The state of Alabama has seen as many as 10 coronavirus deaths, with four confirmed by the Alabama Department of Public Health, in 827 cases across the state.

2 hours ago

Things you can do today to help improve your mental health amid COVID-19 outbreak

Overwhelmed. Anxious. Distracted. Lonely. These are a few words that might describe the feelings of those who are transitioning into working from home, or limited work, during the novel coronavirus outbreak.

News cycles are dominated by COVID-19 news. While coverage is a pertinent necessity during a pandemic, it can be overwhelming to experience every news outlet’s abandoning its daily beat for serious COVID-19 news only. There is little to no positive news — currently, most pieces of communication are tracking ever-increasing infection and fatality numbers.

Sitting on the receiving end of virtually every possible news outlet pushing COVID-19-centric news leads to feeling distracted and overwhelmed.

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“Despite the outbreak, it’s important to remember that life still goes on and that there are a number of strategies people can use to cope with this type of stress, said Laura Dreer, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Sciences. “We know that people have a tremendous ability to flourish in light of what one might consider life-altering situations.”

Dreer’s clinical research is on resilience of patients and caregivers in coping with traumatic injuries and chronic medical conditions and supports individuals overcoming adversity.

Ready to focus, experience mindfulness and boost your mood?

Help someone else

Helping someone else is a great way to feel more empowered about the impact of your day-to-day life. Virtually reach out to struggling co-workers or others in the community with support and encouragement, and check (again, virtually) on any elderly or vulnerable members of your community and offer to assist them through grocery shopping, picking up their medications or cutting their lawn.

Practice mindfulness

“Mindfulness means being fully present in the moment,” Dreer said. “It is easy for many of us to get caught up in things that have happened in the past or in the future while missing out on living in the present.”

Combat the pinging notifications and things vying for your attention by practicing a bit of mindfulness at the start or end of your day — or even as a lunchtime break. Check out mindfulness platform Headspace or the Resilient Option, which is offering free unlimited access to its online program.

Read a book

Whether you choose to read a positive book, a murder mystery or even a manual, reading still has proven health benefits. According to Scholastic, regular reading can decrease your stress levels by up to 68 percent and can lengthen your life by up to two years.

Watch a positive movie or television show

Birgit Wolz, Ph.D., a psychotherapist at the Zur Institute, facilitates cinema therapy groups. Wolz stated that watching a movie can bring “insight, inspiration, emotional release or relief, and natural change.”

Al.com has created a list of 51 hopeful movies that will make you feel good about life, now streaming on Netflix and more. Dreer also encourages watching shows focused on humor; they can also help to relieve stress as there is evidence for humor and laughter’s effects on your emotional well-being.

Stay socially connected

Dreer advocates for the importance of staying socially connected throughout this outbreak, especially when social distancing is recommended and businesses, schools, entertainment, social, and sporting events/activities are halted.

“When people are socially isolated, they can become at risk for loneliness and depression, particularly among older adults living alone or among other vulnerable groups of individuals,” Dreer said. “Stress and loneliness can weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to illnesses. There are many ways to continue to engage socially and during outbreaks, and it may take some creativity.”

  • Play games with your family using virtual multi-player games. Do not forget to include out-of-state family members!
  • Write down questions to ask relatives/friends in an effort to get to know more about them. “Tell me about the last time you remember laughing so hard. What was it about?” or “Tell me about something you learned recently.”
  • Eat a meal together at home with family and/or virtually when other family/friends might be eating. Cook with family, if possible.
  • Do a puzzle together.

Limit your sources and amount of news intake

“Constantly listening to news and/or cable talk shows will only add to one’s anxiety in times of an outbreak or disaster,” Dreer said. “While it’s important to stay updated, limiting updates to once a day will help you stay more in the moment and lower your stress levels. This is particularly important for parents with young children and to be mindful of keeping the news to a minimum.”

Streamline your incoming news by picking a few reputable sources rather than relying on potentially unreliable social media. You can also get good information from sources such as the

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)UAB, World Health Organization, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Get moving and get outside

Restaurants, movie theaters and everything else might be closed; but sidewalks and trails are not! There are benefits to staying active, including boosted energy, improved mood, lowered blood pressure and reduced risk for chronic health conditions.

Getting moving is a good way to get your mind off the negative and remember the hope that is just around the corner! Fresh air and sunlight will give you a new perspective and keep you interactive in the world as daily routines are affected.

UAB News has also outlined “Six ways to stay healthy while keeping your distance” if you are looking for more ideas.

Start (or end) your day with gratitude

Taking a moment to remember all the things you are grateful for in life can be a great way to focus on the positive. To take stock of the ways in which you count yourself lucky or blessed allows you to re-center on your priorities. Dreer often gives exercises such as a 30-day gratitude challenge to her patients with vision impairments and their family caregivers. She recommends making a list of the things you are grateful for and keeping a gratitude journal.

Keep your regular routine

Try to keep regular routines and schedules, which will help you get the sleep you need and keep structure for yourself as well as your children. It may feel good at first to have no structure, sleep in, etc.; but the more you can keep yourself on your regular routine, the better your long-term mental health. Try to eat healthy foods and engage in routine exercise, even simple walks outside.

UAB Department of Psychology Professor Diane Tucker, Ph.D., shares her thoughts on making a plan for positive coping during the COVID-19 time. You can read more about her advice for positive action here.

Talk about your feelings, concerns

Dreer advocates the importance of talking about your feelings and concerns with close family and friends, neighbors, mental health provider, and/or clergy. Talking with others can help process your concerns, give you a different perspective and make you think of things in a different way.

Share with children how you deal with your own stress so that you model that for them. Limit their exposure to news and social media that may have inaccurate information.

Expand your knowledge and stimulate your mental activity!

“Now is a perfect time to pursue those things you wish you had more time to do or learn about various topics,” Dreer said. “Use YouTube to learn to play an instrument or how to fix or make something, or view TED Talks to help further your outlook and perspective on various topics.

Spend time with a pet

There is much to be said about the comfort of a pet during times of stress. Dreer says there is a body of evidence supporting the beneficial impact of having a pet on mental health.

Pets can have a calming effect on us, allow us to relax, breath slower and lower our heart rate and have been found to keep us more physically active when taking them on walks as well as socially interactive in terms of meeting new people when out on a walk. And, pets do not have to be just dogs or cats to have a beneficial impact. Even watching a fish has been found to positively impact mental health and lower stress and blood pressure.

(Courtesy of UAB)

2 hours ago

State Sen. Whatley: Coronavirus order favors big business over small business — Hints at legislation changing powers of ‘dictator’ state health officer

Saturday, State Sen. Tom Whatley (R-Auburn) and State Rep. Danny Garrett (R-Trussville) both took to social media to voice their frustrations with the blanket order closing certain businesses to limit the spread of the COVID-19/coronavirus threat.

Whatley took to the airwaves later that day to elaborate on his concerns. During an appearance on Huntsville radio WVNN’s “Will Hampson Weekends,” Whatley explained how economic consequences were ignored and done so at the expense of individuals’ civil liberties with the order issued at the behest of State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris.

“It’s not just Auburn and Lee County, Tallapoosa and Russell County – it’s all across the state,” Whatley said. “You’ve got rural Alabama that doesn’t have some of the things, advantages other places do – options I should say, to obtain certain items they need in everyday life. And now, the state has come in with a one-size-fits-all order signed by the state health officer, who is not an elected official but an appointed official by a board of doctors.”

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“He is issuing orders for the state that are carrying the rule of law,” Whatley continued. “Yet, he is an unelected individual. And he is a good fellow, and he is a good guy. He’s doing everything he can to keep the state safe. But as you stated earlier, the whole focus has been on making sure the state is safe and minimizing the consequences. And that’s great. And we need to do that. But he admitted to me yesterday he had only been focused on the medical side of the issue. And when you’re doing something outside of the medical side of the issue, you need to bring everybody to the table. And that’s a concern with the economics as well. You’re going to curtail people’s civil liberties.”

The Lee County lawmaker also expressed his concern with how the order from the state favors big business over local business by giving a competitive advantage.

“That may not have been their objective to start with,” Whatley said. “But it sure is the result of their order. And if this was ever an order that was given down to benefit big business over the guy that goes to church with you, that lives down the street, that has a mortgage at the local bank – I don’t know what is.”

Whatley revealed State Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) has also reached out Ivey with similar concerns regarding the mandate from the state.

“I can’t speak for him, but I know Senator Del Marsh has written a letter to the governor that I had a look at,” Whatley said. “It was a very well thought out letter. It said those who are in danger, those who have the pre-disposition – make sure you can get yourself in a place where you can be safe and don’t put yourself at risk. And then the rest of us need to continue on with business, need to continue on to make sure that we can go to schools, go to shops and we can continue the commerce that is the business of Alabama.”

Host Will Hampson asked if there was the possibility the Alabama legislature could take a look at the authority given to the state health officer.

“When all of this is said and done, I hope we make some changes to make things better and easier on small business,” he said. “I have spoken to several of my colleagues, and I do think that there is a prevailing thought among those people that I serve with that when we go back in to session– maybe not this year because it will be a truncated year but next year for sure – that we look at legislation addressing some of the issues that have come up during this crisis – maybe the emergency powers, the state health officer being, in essence, a dictator for the state because he has no check and balance on him.”

“One thing that I’d like to see is that person appointed by the governor and be part of the governor’s cabinet,” he added. “So if the governor wants to do a shutdown, he or she has to put their name on the order, not just the state health officer. And I think you’ll see that taken into account. So, I hope we see a change that benefits the small businessman.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly and host of Huntsville’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN.

16 hours ago

Community holds ‘Park and Pray’ twice daily at East Alabama Medical Center — ‘God is in this’

Lee County has been one of the hardest hit areas by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Alabama, and members of the community are rallying around medical professionals who are battling on the front lines against the disease.

RELATED: Medal of Honor recipient Bennie Adkins in hospital with coronavirus

As reported first by WSFA, Alabamians from around the Opelika area are holding a “Park and Pray” twice per day in support of the hospital staff at East Alabama Medical Center (EAMC).

At 7:00 a.m. and then again at 7:00 p.m. CT, community members begin 30 minutes of prayer while parked in the hospital’s deck. Afterwards, everyone flashes their vehicle lights as a show of encouragement for the staff, who can view the event from hospital windows.

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EAMC Chaplain Laura Eason is reportedly helping to organize the powerful effort, however the idea originally came from a friend of hers.

”It has just mushroomed and just snowballed into this incredible, incredible thing,” Eason told WSFA.

Registered nurse Madeline Vick captured a video from inside the hospital on Thursday of that night’s Park and Pray. The moment, she told the TV network, gave her chills.

However, the community is apparently doing much more than just the Park and Pray to lift up the hospital staff. People have also brought signs, rocks and bricks with messages of support, as well as providing meals. Anyone wishing to sponsor a meal for the staff can contact either the Auburn Chamber of Commerce or the Opelika Chamber of Commerce.

”This entire community has been unbelievably supportive with so many things,” Vick said.

“These last few days have been really tough and, and it’s gonna get tougher, and so having the community behind us, having the churches and so many people of faith praying for that, in and of itself gives us strength, encouraged to keep on going,” she added. “Just knowing that God is in this and helping keep us safe, and providing protection over our patients in our community and our staff here. Again, it’s been incredible.”

You can watch the full feature from WSFA here.

RELATED: Keep up with Alabama’s confirmed coronavirus cases, locations here

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

17 hours ago

VIDEO: Shelter-in-place, $2.2 trillion in stimulus, Sessions wants China held responsible and more on Alabama Politics This Week

Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and Alabama Democratic Executive Committee member Lisa Handback take you through this week’s biggest political stories, including:

— Should Alabama join other states by issuing a shelter-in-place order?

— Will the $2.2 trillion stimulus deal hold off a total economic collapse?

— Former U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions wants to hold China responsible for its role in the spreading of the coronavirus. Will they pay a price?

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Jackson and Handback are joined former Chairman of the Madison County Commission Dale Strong to discuss his county’s preparedness for the coronavirus pandemic.

Jackson closes the show with a “parting shot” at Governor Kay Ivey asking her to call for a shelter-in-place-order because we all know it is coming eventually.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN.