Last week, on a conference call with members of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, presidential candidate Mitt Romney promised that small businesses would have a "policy role" in his administration.
"The former governor of Massachusetts also said his first day in office would include an executive order freezing all regulations not yet implemented by the Obama administration." It was reported. "He would then commence a review of all regulations, using a team of small business owners to identify burdensome ones that he'd seek to eliminate."
Pick me, Governor Romney, pick me! I want to be on that team!
I'd be great, really. I can bring a lot of helpful insights. I run a small business. I write about small business. I'm funny too -- you should've been there when I made my best man speech at my cousin's wedding a few months ago. You would've been rolling. Plus... I'm a registered Republican. I voted twice for Bush -- I didn't agree with all of his policies but I liked him. OK, I also voted for President Obama. I like him too, although I also don't agree with many of his policies. But that's good, no? Balance? You wouldn't want your small business team to be too partisan right? I meet lots of small business owners who hate President Obama merely because he's a "democrat", a "liberal" and a fan of the Chicago Bulls. And I've met so many others who take a similar view of former President Bush. Shouldn't this team of yours be moderate?
And if you're forming this team, do we have to limit it to just reviewing regulations? And just to small business? I know it's politically popular this year to go after the "small business" voter. But the issues you mention (taxes, regulations, health care reform) really affect the entire business community, right? I've written about this before -- the success of most small businesses rely on the success of big businesses. Big businesses are our largest customers, the providers of our financing environment, the employers of our spouses and the investors in our communities' infrastructures. There really is no "small" vs. "big" business. It's all business. Your team (with me on it, of course) would help advise you on creating a healthy environment for all businesses to start, grow and prosper.
And first and foremost, that environment would begin with a long term tax policy. I like the fact that you want to lower taxes. Business people hate high taxes. But we hate uncertainty even more. Federal, state and local taxes can eat up to 50 percent of our incomes. I'm pretty sure the fees on my cable bill account for 5 percent alone. Expiring regulations, new rules, nifty incentives, rebates, exemptions, stimulus initiatives... this changing landscape of gimmicks and publicity stunts only creates uncertainty. When business people are uncertain about something that could cost them 50 percent of everything they earn, they hold on to their money. Which is why corporate cash balances are at their highest level ever. I realize that tax policy could never be permanent. Nothing's permanent. But if I were on your team I'd be advocating a long term policy of low individual and corporate taxes. Long and stable enough so that business owners like me can feel comfortable calculating a reasonable return on investment for the money we spend instead of feeling uncertain. And we will spend. We will buy inventory, build out facilities, purchase buildings, hire more people. Because all of these things will make us profits. And that's what we care about.
Pick me, Governor Romney. Pick me. I know what businesses want from a president.
Because, when it comes to taxes, I wouldn't stop there. Like you, I would advocate for a reduction in both capital gains and estate taxes. Again, the key is long term. That way my fellow business owners would be encouraged to invest in companies, machinery and partnerships without fearing that if things paid off they wouldn't have to return much of it back to the government. And... gasp... we could accumulate wealth too. Because that's why we're doing this, isn't it? To get rich. And pass this wealth down to our families when we die. And our families can use this money to make investments and create more wealth. Or, in the case of my kids, squander it on Xbox games and football tickets. In either case, the money will be saved, or spent, by the private sector with the private sector. And not the government.
If I were on your team I'd be pressing hard for a long term plan for reducing our national debt. You're a businessman Governor Romney so I don't have to explain to you that debt is not such a bad thing. But too much debt is. Right now our national debt is about 100 percent of our gross domestic product and quickly catching up to the same percentage levels as Greece, Spain and Italy. I love watching the Euro Cup as much as the next guy but that's about enough of Europe I can take. We don't need to eliminate our national debt. We just need to make this relationship a little better. Even if our national debt was 75 percent of our GDP we'd be in much better shape. How to do this? Either reduce the national debt. Or grow our GDP. Or a combination of both. Our GDP is growing at less than 2 percent a year. As a business owner, I'd be encouraging policies to take this number up to 4 or 5 percent, which is what you'd expect to see in a normal recovery.
How to do that? I'm very certain that the tax suggestions above would create a healthier environment for growth. The Startup Bill (and the recently proposed Startup 2.0 bill) are both excellent ways to attract new businesses, people and technology to the U.S. And when it comes to government spending let's do what Reagan did: Spend on defense and infrastructure. Because that's where so many businesses are. And what could be a more important way for our government to ensure business stability than a strong military and a fast way to get goods from one place to another? As for social and education programs cut the spending and instead encourage the private sector to invest in their own communities by matching their investments. The charter school in Philadelphia where I coach baseball could use a few corporate sponsors to hire more teachers and I bet a few would step up if the government partnered with them. Why? Because corporations want to operate in a good, safe community so they can attract smart people and grow. Corporations are not so evil, OK? Well... not all of them.
So let's stop treating companies like they're evil. If I were on your team I'd encourage you to keep doing what you've been doing: making nice with the business community. We have feelings too, you know. And many of the business people I meet feel like Washington doesn't like them. They feel like they're not good people because they make more than $200k per year. They're discouraged from being wealthy. They're hiding their assets. See? There's one of them right now, cowering over in the corner, wishing he could drive that cool Porsche, instead of the Prius that society is forcing him to buy. I know... boo hoo. But business is psychology. And for the past three years the psychology has been: business people bad, workers good. Governor Romney, our "team" could be doing better than that. Business people are good! Workers are good! Jobs are good! Wealth is good! And that Porsche? Really, really good!
How am I doing so far, Governor Romney? Convinced you yet? Well, I have just two more things.
First, I really think it's time for a re-vamp of the Small Business Administration. Can our team help? These are good people doing the best they can and following the orders they've been given. But essentially all they do is guarantee loans and try to provide information to help small businesses. We should change these orders. The SBA should be the government's customer service arm for any business under a certain size. If I have any question about anything to do with the U .S. government (taxes, contracts, regulations, legal, etc.) and I'm a defined "small business" then let me call the SBA and they should have the authority and the resources to answer my question without bouncing me around the bureaucracy.
And finally, Governor Romney, if you're elected president, I really think this team should be equally split between Democrats and Republicans. People who voted for you and people who voted for President Obama. Frankly, your cabinet should be the same, but of course that's all up to you. We are not politicians. We are business people. Every day we're faced with opposition and things that get in the way of us doing what we're trying to do. But we usually figure out a compromise. Why? Because we're not trying to be re-elected. We're trying to make money. And that's all the incentive we need.
So... what do you think? Am I on?
Another version of this post appears on The Philly Post.
Follow Gene Marks on Twitter: www.twitter.com/genemarks