Chappaqua New York has been home to the Clintons (Bill mostly–Hillary a little) since they vacated the White House some ten years ago. One of the reasons the former first couple settled there is that it is a bastion of Democratic Party ideals and principals. And the recent incident where town councilman Michael Wolfensohn called out the police to stop the felonious peddling of cupcakes by local youths is in keeping with the Town’s values. The councilman is right that unauthorized peddling can’t take place on park property, otherwise the public areas of tony Westchester communities will start looking like Manhattan’s Orchard Street, loaded with push carts and the chaos of commerce and trade.
But there is a deeper issue here. New York, by all measures expresses the highest level of hostility toward business of any state in the nation. Be it taxes, vexatious regulation or destructive laws, New York leads the way, although I hear California is quickly catching up. By nipping their entrepreneurial desires in the bud, Mr. Wolfensohn actually did the children a favor. If they hadn’t been stopped by the Town, there would have been many other actors, both governmental and private, seeking to shut the teens down. First, the kids should have been charging state and local sales taxes. Even if they built the tax into their prices, the Sales Tax authority has to get the first bite out of profits. If the teens had succeeded according to their business plan, they might have owed thousands in sales tax, along with potential fines, penalties and personality liability.
Chappaqua is also home to thousands of attorneys. No doubt there were ambulance chasers lurking in the bushes, just waiting for the kids to mess up. Law suits against them for food poisoning, hazardous positioning of their cart and a host of other tortious acts were just a filing away. Not to mention that the teens were minors who were engaging in contractual activities. Imagine if a local merchant hired them to provide cookies, the teens could have decided that the business was too much work and just repudiated the contract.
Oh and then the health authorities were also waiting in the wings. Were the baked goods properly packaged, stored in anti-bacterial wrappers. And how were the kids keeping their hands clean. They faced the same issues as Manhattan hot dog vendors. Then there’s workers’ compensation. If they gave a friend a dollar to use a bicycle to fetch some more lemonade and she got hit by a police cruiser, the State’s virtuous worker’s compensation system would trounce upon them. No comp insurance, the legal vultures would come out of the woodwork.
And if the kids’ business really took off and they were grossing a thousand dollars per week or more, they would need to file quarterly withholding tax returns and start making deductions from their employee’s pay checks. Now you’re talking real overhead. Mom and dad might be okay with donating some baked goods once in a while, but not thousands per month. And finally, when the temperature in the park dropped too low, watch out for OSHA. Making employees work in sub-freezing temperatures is an abusive policy, right up their alley.
So the kids have learned some valuable lessons. Next time they need more money, just ask mom and dad to increase their allowances. Or perhaps they could do the American thing and simply borrow the money on favorable terms.
And perhaps the most important one, maybe it’s better to be an employee and let someone else worry about keeping the governmental dogs at bay.
Link to original story at http://www.lohud.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=201011160337