The past election had a lot of campaign rhetoric about so-called “wars” against women, against this group and against that group.
But there was one “war” that seemed to be largely overlooked in the election: the war against entrepreneurs and small businesses.
In this war, the battle line is pretty clear. Government does not recognize or appreciate the value of entrepreneurship or the vital role small businesses play as the engine of our nation’s economy. Nope, government and politicians see these small businesses as an easy target to financially plunder.
The Business of Politicians
The mindset of many politicians and governments is simple: to reward their supporters and constituencies, they “rob” small businesses with a crushing burden of taxes, licensing fees and over-regulations. In their misguided thinking, politicians think nothing of adding new taxes and red tape to businesses that are already struggling. After all, their priority is government spending.
Unfortunately, most politicians have never run a business. An equal number have never even worked in the private sector. Yet, they make policy, taxation and regulation decisions that can strangle a small business.
I ran a summer camp when I was a teacher. It gave me a taste of entrepreneurship, and I realized how hard it was to run a business, even if it was just for summers. My dad was a Philly cop, and in his later years he invested his own money to start his own business. I came away from those experiences with an even deeper respect and admiration for the entrepreneurs who take the risks to start their own business.
It is a shame that more of our elected government leaders do not have that same respect and appreciation for these risk takers and job creators. Instead, these businesses are viewed as wallets for the government to pick-pocket to pay for their never-ending spending sprees.
I do not think enough politicians recognize that small businesses create jobs. Those jobs strengthen the economic and social fabric of the local community.
You do not need to have an MBA or a Ph.D. in economics to conclude that a community with healthy local businesses will thrive in every single aspect. Better real estate values. Lower crime rates and unemployment. Stronger schools and higher graduation rates.
How does government reward the small business owner? More taxes. More regulations. More licensing fees. And ridiculous amounts of red tape. And when small businesses throw up their hands and say, “enough!” they are scolded by politicians and the public as being “selfish” or “un-American.”
Small Business Taxation is Unsustainable
For instance, some companies have said that they will have to lay off people because they will not be able to afford the costs of the new health care regulations of Obamacare. Instead of sympathy, these business owners are scorned in public.
It reminds me of sports talk radio when fans and callers question why doesn’t their team sign the big-name free agents, despite their ridiculous salary demands that go into the hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s easy for a sports fan to criticize the decisions of the sports team owner…after all, it’s not their money.
In the past election season we saw a lot of political voting blocs making their collective voices heard- women, minorities, seniors, religious faiths, the Tea Party, Libertarians and Latinos, to name just a few. And that is great- it is important to build coalitions and leverage that influence.
How come small businesses do not have that strong, loud voice when it comes to exerting influence on policy, politicians and at the voting booth?
The Voice of Small Businesses Needs to Be Heard
I would like to suggest that local Chambers of Commerce need to step up in a new way. For me, too many of these chambers have been sleepy, “old boys” clubs more focused on their networking breakfasts, lunches and dinners than aggressively pushing for politicians and policies that help small businesses, not hinder them.
If small businesses continue to be strangled by taxes and other government-imposed costs, those Chamber of Commerce events are going to become very, very intimate because those small businesses will cease to exist, or at the very least, be unable to afford their chamber membership.
Chambers of Commerce have strength in numbers:
- Their member companies
- The employees of those businesses
- The friends and family of those businesses
- The customers and suppliers of those businesses
That translates to voting power.
Here is the role Chambers of Commerce and other small business organizations should play in terms of mobilizing against politician plunderers:
- Politicians or elected officials of either party who propose or impose taxes or regulations should be identified and targeted.
- Use the strength in numbers and let them know that further tax burdens will not be imposed without a fight.
- Use the media.
- Organize and mobilize and actively support candidates that will support the concerns of small businesses. Be prepared to put time and money behind candidates that will be a friend to small businesses. Give tax-and-spend politicians a much-deserved pink slip!
You have to be prepared to roll up your sleeves and do some hard work. You won’t accomplish this milling about at a chamber lunch or after-hours networking event.
If you are a small business and you belong to a Chamber, it’s time you start getting your money’s worth. Small businesses are under attack, and it’s time for small business owners to organize, mobilize and make their voices heard.
Because, to paraphrase James Carville’s brilliant campaign strategy from the 1992 election, “it’s the small business economy, stupid.”
Tell me your thoughts and ideas how we can make elected officials more accountable to the challenges and concerns of small businesses.