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Why Most Small-Business Owners Didn't Vote For Rick Santorum

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Although the data may never be fully known, I believe that the majority of people who own a small business did not come out and vote for Rick Santorum in Arizona and Michigan last night. And I know why.

In 1995 I left my job as a financial controller at a publicly held biopharmaceutical firm to work full time in my own company which I had formed the year before. Sometimes people ask me why I did this. My job was well paid with good benefits. I had a conservative, secure career. So why become a business owner? Was it the money? The potential money? The fame? The girls? It was none of those reasons.

I started my company because of Quentin Tarantino.

In 1994, Pulp Fiction was released. It's now eighteen years later and Pulp Fiction still ranks among my top ten favorite movies. Of course, I didn't know how great a movie it was when it first came out, but so many of my friends were buzzing about it that I couldn't wait to see it. And then I got the opportunity. One day a friend of mine who often works a warehouse night shift called me up and said he was going to see a 2PM matinee of Pulp Fiction and did I want to go? Did I? Of course I did!

And not only did I want to see the movie, but it just so happened that I had all the time in the world that very day. The office was slow. We had finished a financing transaction the week before, payables were out the door and things were under control.

But did I see Pulp Fiction with my friend that day? No, I did not. Because I had a job. I was the controller. And my boss was still in his office just like he was always in his office from 8AM to 6PM. I liked and admired my boss very much. But he was not the kind of guy that would take kindly to me skipping work so I could see a movie. Unfortunately, not even Mr. Wolf could get me out of that predicament. Sure, I've seen Pulp Fiction a hundred times since then. But that one incident sticks out in my mind. Because it was at that moment that I decided to start my own business.

What does this have to do with Rick Santorum? Everything.

Knowing what I know about Rick Santorum, he's probably not a huge fan of Quentin Tarantino movies like I am. But that's OK. I like Rick Santorum. I believe he's a good person. I agree with many of his policies, particularly his economic ones.

For starters, how can any business person not like his position on taxes? I'm not a trained economist but I've always been a big believer that the lower you make my biggest expense (which is always the amount I pay the government), the more money I'll have to spend on other things. Like investing in capital equipment. Hiring people. Expanding. Or maybe just buying stuff. Like most business owners, I like long term tax programs. Not incentives. Not stimulus. Not gimmicks. We're not naive to think that the government can make things really long term. But we'd at least like to know what our tax rates will be over the next three to five years, if possible. That way we can look ahead and make longer term decisions, knowing there are fewer surprises on the way from our government.

Santorum's tax proposals do this. He wants to simplify personal taxes so that there are only two income tax rates of 10% and 28%. On the business side, he wants to cut the corporate tax rate in half to 17.5%. He wants to allow all corporations to expense business equipment. Most of the business owners I know, when told of these policies, love them.

Santorum takes a position on government spending that I find very similar among business owners like myself. He's big on spending reductions, vowing to cut $5 trillion from our spending through 2013. Like those of us who realize we can't spend more than we have, he's a big supporter of the balanced budget amendment and wants to limit Federal spending to 18% of GDP. He wants to reform entitlements, which currently make up more than 41% of our government's spending, through the freezing of some programs and the cutting back of others. Most importantly he recognizes the need to propose budgets that actually spend less money each year, and not just cut back on the "rate of growth."

This is some kind of pro-business platform. And yet that's not even all.

Santorum recognizes the value that our oil industry provides the economy. He supports the Keystone Pipeline and is a big proponent of drilling and exploiting our own, vast oil reserves to help us become more energy independent. He wants to repeal regulations that impose more than $100 million of an economic burden. He's a proponent of free trade agreements to open up new markets for businesses, big and small. He wants to repeal the President's healthcare reform legislation in favor of his own plan for competitive insurance choices.

Wow. I thought I would never be able to find a Presidential candidate where I agree with most of his positions. But this seems like the guy. I've finally found him. If he were sitting across from me over breakfast in an L.A. diner I'd be the one saying "I love you honey-bun."

Except I'm not going to vote for Rick Santorum. Ever. And neither would most of the small business owners I know. Because Rick Santorum is too similar to President Obama. Can you believe it? Believe it.

Both Santorum and President Obama are alike in many ways. Each of them seem to be good fathers and husbands. They are both good communicators. The President has run an administration that has been mostly scandal free and I would expect the same from the Pennsylvania Senator. In all these ways they're alike. But it's more than that.

Agree with him or not, President Obama has a personal worldview and wants to use the government to help him enable that vision. He believes that the government can solve our healthcare issues, absent of the private sector. He feels that temporary tax breaks will motivate business people to hire the unemployed and make investments. He thinks that to solve the inequities in our systems the wealthy should pay more to the government. And he believes that the government, through spending, strategic investments and stimulus programs, can spur economic growth and solve our problems in education and energy. President Obama is not a socialist.He just seems to have more faith in government than in the private sector. I respect that. I don't agree with him. But I respect that.

And Senator Santorum is no different than the President. As I wrote above there's no question that his economic policies are very business friendly. But it's his morality, and his desire for a government to impose his morality, that is the problem. He calls himself "the champion of American values." He's pro-life and wants the government to enforce this belief. He's a proponent of families, so he's offering tax credits to parents that have more children. He is not a fan of homosexuality (to put it mildly) and favors legislation limiting gay rights. However, he's a supporter of legislation favoring gun owners. In short, he would not like watching the famous Pulp Fiction scene featuring "The Gimp" but would be in favor of Marcellus putting a cap in "The Gimp's" ass. And like the President, I respect his right to have his opinions. I don't agree with them. But I respect that.

I left my job because I wanted to see Pulp Fiction at 2PM on a weekday afternoon. I wanted to see Travolta dance with Uma. I wanted to see Mr. Wolf solve that big problem hidden in Jimmie's garage before Bonnie got home. I wanted to see what was in that briefcase Jules carried around (I never did) I doubt these people represented what Rick Santorum would consider to be "American Values." I don't care. I just didn't want anyone telling me that I couldn't see a movie in the middle of the day. Or what movie to see, for that matter.

I started a business mainly because I didn't want a boss any more. I wanted more control over my life. I wanted to make my own decisions. And I was prepared to risk a secure job in order to benefit (or suffer) from those decisions. And now, some eighteen years later, I do not want anyone, particularly the government, insulting my intelligence. I do not need a President who tries to tell me how to run my business. I do not need Washington dictating when I should be able to hire a new employee or buy a new computer. And I know I would not be able to bear four years of listening to some guy preach to me about how to be a "good" father or demonstrate "American values."

Small business owners don't want that. Which is why most of us couldn't vote for Rick Santorum.

Another version of this post appears on The Philly Post.