My daughter just turned sixteen last week. And to make matters worse, she's got The Boyfriend. The first serious Boyfriend. This is a tough thing to deal with when you're a dad.
And it's not that I don't like the young man. And no, I'm not nervous that she's a 10th grader and he's a senior. Or that he drives a convertible Mustang. Or that he has a tattoo of a dragon on his back. I'm not against my daughter going out with boys. It's just that I've never had this experience before.
Now I know how the President feels. Particularly when it comes to the economy. Is President Obama anti-business? Writing as a small business owner and (hold on to your hats) a Republican I say: of course not. No more than I'm anti-Boyfriend.
The President's no dummy. He's smart enough to know the importance of this country's business community. Just like I'm smart enough to know that my daughter is growing up and The Boyfriend is a completely natural part of a teenager's life. He's smart enough to know that without a good economy his Presidency will be in jeopardy. I'm smart enough to know never to leave two teenagers of the opposite sex alone in the house for more than five minutes at a time. He's smart enough to realize that to have a good economy he needs to create an environment for businesses to grow, profit and hire more people. And I'm smart enough to not be fooled every time The Boyfriend calls me "Mr. Marks" and answers every question with "Yes sir."
President Obama is doing everything he feels he can to support the business community. And I'm doing everything I can to support my daughter's relationship with The Boyfriend. Unfortunately, we both don't really know what we're doing. I'm not anti-Boyfriend. I just have no boyfriend experience. The President's fault is not that he's anti-business. It's that he has had no experience running a business.
There is one difference between us though. He's had to take actions over the past couple of years. I still have a little time to figure things out. And I don't want to make the mistakes he's made.
Take taxes, for example. Tax rates under this administration are as low as they've been under President Bush and even lower than they were under Clinton, where rates were as much as 34 percent. And although the President last year threatened to raise taxes to pay for the deficit he caved in the end, and extended the Bush tax cuts for another two years. I know how the guy feels. I also caved when I told my daughter and The Boyfriend to be back by 11PM and I didn't yell when they strolled in 45 minutes late. An anti-Boyfriend dad would've put his foot down. And an anti-business President would have increased corporate taxes, levied more duties and raised tariffs to pay for the social programs that he enacted as part of 2009's trillion dollar stimulus. Neither of us did this. I like The Boyfriend. And I believe the President likes the business community. Neither of us wants to rock the boat.
But now the President has recently changed his rhetoric and is threatening tax increases in the next fiscal year to help pay down the deficit. "I refuse to renew the Bush tax cuts for the rich," he said recently. From the standpoint of a small business owner, he's not being irrational. He's looking for sources of revenue. Many business people I know do the same thing when faced with budget shortfalls or lower profits. We sometimes raise our prices and turn to our existing customers for more cash flow. Obama is not "anti-business" for considering this. He's just inexperienced.
That's because business owners always feel like their customers aren't paying enough. But we don't call them out in public. More importantly, if the President were running his own business (like I do) and handing over 40 percent of his profits to the federal, state and local authorities (like I am) in the form of taxes and other governmental "fees" he'd not only understand the frustration the business community feels when there's talk of more tax increases, but the significant obstacles it creates for us to grow our businesses, invest in our own infrastructure and... hire more people. The President's rhetoric isn't anti-business. It's just lack of business experience.
I think President Obama has tried to do his best to help the business community over the past couple of years. His 2010 Small Business Jobs Act extended and doubled the size of Small Business Administration loans, created a huge lending fund for small companies, provided more support for state lending, and offered more tax cuts for businesses. He supported the initial Troubled Asset Relief Program and the Fed's second round of Quantitative Easing to provide more liquidity to the economy. He brought together the CEOs of some of the country's largest and most well known companies to form an initiative to help startups get financing and grow. These are not the actions of an "anti-business" President.
They are the actions of a President who's never run a business before.
Making capital available is great. But in an economy that's currently growing at a 1.8 percent rate no one's really asking for financing. We're not expanding. We're not buying more equipment. We're not acquiring companies. We're not hiring people. We don't need more working capital to fund big purchases. Forming initiatives are nice. But small companies like mine never trust the intentions of the CEOs of big companies, no more than dads like me trust the intentions of eighteen year old boys when they're alone in the dark with our sixteen year old daughters. We don't care how nice they may appear. We know what's going on in the dark recesses of their minds. Oh...we know.
Many people I speak to on the right complain that the current "regulatory" environment "stifles" business. They complain about "big government" and the "takeover" of our country's healthcare system. They use these claims to justify their position that Obama is anti-business. I agree with their issues, but not their conclusion. The President's regulatory initiatives seriously concern me. But they have not been undertaken because he's against business. Unfortunately, it just appears that way.
Like healthcare. Can anyone really argue that healthcare reform is a bad thing? For years, we've all complained about rising healthcare costs and declining care. We hate the expense, burden and complexity of administering our healthcare plans. So the President says to us "Look, the government will deal with healthcare. We'll do the administration. And we'll fix your costs with a $2,000 per person penalty if you decide not to carry insurance. And by the way, you don't have to pay any penalty if you have less than fifty employees." These are not the actions of an anti-business President.
They are the actions of a President who doesn't know a whole lot about running a business. Which is why the business community is uneasy. No one really knows the true costs. No one did the reasonable return on investment spreadsheet. No one, not even the legislators, knows the details of the new legislation. No smart business person would have signed on to a plan, particularly one that's so significant, with so little information. It's like my daughter telling me she's going out with The Boyfriend and not telling me where, who else is going, when she's coming home and what the hell is she thinking wearing that short little skirt. Without an adequate explanation, no father I know would agree to that deal either.
The President is not anti-business because he wants to fund education, infrastructure and Medicare. He is not anti-business because he grew up as a social activist and is a Democrat. Or that he supports regulations to make the banking industry more accountable. If he had run a business, however, he'd know he couldn't fund all the things he wants to do because the money's not there. His bankers wouldn't allow him to run up enormous debt. And he wouldn't allow himself to call the very partners he needs to grow his business names like "fat cats" (as much they deserve to be called that and more) because that kind of rhetoric could potentially harm future profits. He lacks business experience.
And for the record, I am not anti-Boyfriend, either. I just lack Boyfriend experience. Really, I like the kid. Even when he's sticking his tongue in my little girl's ear and doesn't think I can see it. Oh, I see it mister. I see it.