Why small business has become big politics

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It seems like Washington can’t agree on anything these days, except maybe one point: Small business.

It seems everyone in Washington loves small business — or they pretend they do.

If you watch the news or listen to the ads, you’ll hear candidates on both sides of the aisle vow to help small businesses grow and create jobs.

Of course, some of that is just election-year baloney, but it raises a good question: Why do politicians want voters to know they’re fighting for small business?

Politicians love small business because small business matters. It’s important, it’s trusted and it’s going to make a big difference in this year’s elections.

Numbers that matter

It isn’t stretching things to say that small business is the engine that drives our economy. The federal government defines a small business as one with fewer than 500 employees. By that measure, small business accounts for 99.7 percent of all U.S. employers, and employs 49.6 percent of the private-sector workforce.

When ordinary people think of small business, 500 employees may seem big, but even if you look at just the smallest employers, those with fewer than 20 workers, it’s easy to see that small business is a powerful force.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, these businesses account for 89.3 percent of all employer firms.

The bottom line is that small business has a big voice in what happens with the economy, and voters know it.

Gallup did a survey a few months ago asking whom people trust when it comes to coming up with ideas for creating jobs. The No. 1 answer: small business, which came out ahead of governors, academics, members of Congress and the president.

The other reason politicians like small business is because small business votes.

A survey by the National Federation of Independent Business before the last presidential election found that small-business owners account for about 11 percent of registered voters — about the same as union members. When you include those who work for small businesses, the small-business voting bloc swells to nearly one-third of the electorate.

Small-business voters support the candidates who support small business, the candidates who understand risk and free enterprise, and those who will run government with the prudence of a small-business owner.

Small business supports the candidates who believe in sensible regulations and less bureaucracy and lower taxes.

Small business supports the candidates who will spend taxpayers’ money wisely. Small-business owners have to stick to a budget, and they believe government should, too.

The real problem

Right now, small business is hurting.

According to the latest NFIB Small Business Optimism Index, the single most important problem facing small business right now is weak sales, followed by high taxes and government rules and regulations.

Uncertainty over the outcome of this year’s elections doesn’t help.

As we approach Election Day, we hope small-business owners will talk to their friends and employees about where candidates stand on important business issues. We also hope they focus on what these politicians have done or will do to help America’s job creators.

If we’re going to fix this economy, we need to elect the candidates who will do big things for small business by passing meaningful tax reform and enacting sensible regulations, candidates who won’t punish success or put up roadblocks to growth.

For more information about pro-small business candidates and how you can make a difference, please go to www.nfib.com/politics.

Big things happen only when you support small business.

Dan Danner of Arlington, Va., is president and CEO of the National Federation of Independent Business, an association representing small and independent businesses. Previously, he was chief of staff to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce and worked in the White House Office of Public Liaison.

One Response to Why small business has become big politics

  1. Your article is very timely and much appreciated.

    One thing about small businesses that most people miss, I think, is the personal connection. I know a number of online merchants who have staff, ranging from three people to more than a dozen. They feel responsible for their employees to a certain extent. Cutbacks and layoffs aren’t done lightly; the business owner has likely met the children and spouses of his employees. He knows what’s at stake when a job is lost. Contrast that with working at Fortune500Co.

    There’s an email going around the web now, supposedly from a small business owner to his employees (though I think it’s fictional). In it the owner acknowledges that he can’t pressure his employees to vote for a certain candidate in the upcoming presidential election but they should think carefully about what yet more government taxation and regulation will do to the business. He reminds them that he’s built up a multimillion dollar asset that can be sold and if the business environment becomes too punitive he can close his office and retire to the Caribbean, sipping fruity drinks and watching the waves come in. They, on the other hand, will be out of work. As someone once said, Elections have consequences.

    Like I said, I think this email is fictional but it certainly taps into a deep well of resentment among business owners.

    Charleen Larson
    September 28, 2012 at 12:05 pm