Thank you, Mitt Romney, for choosing Paul Ryan as your running mate. And thank you, President Obama, for saying this: "Paul Ryan is a good and decent man; he is a family man. He is an articulate spokesman for Governor Romney's vision. But it is a vision that I fundamentally disagree with."
Sure, over the next few months there will be all sorts of disrespectful things said by both sides about each other. And most of it will come from the talkers on cable TV. Rep. Ryan will be accused of attacking the poor, being insensitive to the elderly and once having an affair with Ayn Rand's second cousin. The President will be accused of being dishonest, populist, fear-mongering and new revelations by Donald Trump will prove, beyond a doubt, that he was actually born in Atlantis and not Hawaii as originally claimed. Like many voters, I find this disrespectful.
That's because I get so little respect nowadays. My kids don't want to hear what I have to say, unless it involves giving them money. My customers continually abuse their payment terms. My vendors frequently miss delivery dates. I wait on hold for thirty minutes while an airline makes a minor change to my ticket... and then charges me $150. This is my life. But the choice of Rep Ryan and the President's statement gives me some hope.
Which is why I'm grateful to both of them. This year is an important election year. And both candidates have now framed this huge election around the most important thing to business owners like me: the economy. They are drawing their lines. They are proposing two different approaches to solving our economic problems. They are giving us choices. And hopefully they'll continue to keep focused on the economy and not go negative. And that they will both do their best to give us good information so that we can make the right choice. Because it's the right thing to do.
My business, though profitable, is still not growing. The recession has been tough. I haven't added an employee in four years. My people could be much busier. Like many business owners I'm frustrated at the lack of demand. I'm frustrated by the slow growth of our economy. I'm frustrated by the scratch on the back of my Nissan that no one seems able to explain. I'm frustrated by the prospect of rising deficits and our huge national debt that no one seems able to address.
Does Romney/Ryan or Obama/Biden know all the answers? Of course not. Economists can't even agree on the answers. Are they smart people? Yes, I believe so. But then again the producers of Battleship are smart people and looked what happened to them. The most important thing here is that, with the selection of Ryan, we've now identified the biggest issue: the economy. And we now have two candidates who are presenting two different plans to address the issues that are of most concern to small business owners like me: slow growth and rising deficits.
Whoever is elected, his plan for improving the economy will directly impact my company. Which plan makes more sense? How does this affect a small business like mine?
Growth. To grow our economy, Romney and Ryan want to cut taxes. The President disagrees. He believes that more government spending will stimulate growth. Romney/Ryan look to past administrations like Reagan and Bush's first term, when times were good, Bon Jovi rocked, and the economy was booming. They say that low tax rates were a big part of this. The President looks at the days of Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson when the government's funding of infrastructure projects and welfare reform helped to bring the country out of the depression and (in the case of Johnson) significantly added to our Gross Domestic Product. My business needs more growth. I need more customers. I need people to feel more comfortable upgrading their systems and buying more software and services from my firm. Which candidate's plan will help accomplish this? This affects me.
Deficits. For years as the House Budget Leader, Ryan has personified the opposition's fight against the President's proposals. He has warned that the President's spending would continue to increase deficits and our national debt. He has presented his plans for balancing the budget, plans that included tax decreases and significant cuts in programs (healthcare reform for example) that directly contrasts the President's own ideas. The President has fought Ryan each year with nothing more to show than a stalemate in Congress. He has not had a budget passed since 2009. And so the government continues to spend money without a plan. And deficits continue to rise. Right now money is flowing into the U.S. even at near zero level interest rates because, compared to the rest of the world, we're still (if you can believe it) the safest place to be. But it will be a problem if our government can't agree on a reasonable plan to reduce our annual deficits and pay down our national debt. Because as Europe firms up its balance sheet and countries like China and India grow stronger our investors may not feel as comfy with our bonds and T-bills. With more risk comes more interest. And less value for our currency. I borrow money. I buy, and have customers who buy, materials overseas. This affects my business.
Taxes. Both Romney and Ryan are proposing significant decreases in income tax rates for all income levels. They are proposing lower taxes on dividends and capital gains than the President. They are pushing a zero estate tax rate. Many economists agree with this plan. And many scratch their heads at the math and wonder how all of these tax decreases will be paid for. The President wants taxes to increase, particularly on the wealthy. He wants those making more than $200K per year to "pay their fair share." He's doing what many of us running small businesses would do -- searching for new revenues to offset rising costs. Will this work? Or will higher taxes constrict my spending. Taking together the state, local and federal authorities I'm already paying near 40% of my income to some government in some form of taxes. And that doesn't include the fees I pay to my cable company. Whether rates go up or down hits me right in the pocketbook. This affects my business.
Entitlements. About two-thirds of our government's spending goes towards some type of insurance (social security, Medicare, Medicaid) or defense. The President wants to cut defense spending and not make any changes to insurance spending. He feels that the recently passed healthcare reform bill will, over the long term, reduce some of these costs. He feels that these cuts, coupled with tax increases, will enable us to pay down our debts while still keeping most of these insurance plans in place. Romney and Ryan are attacking entitlements. Ryan has proposed giving block grants to the states and letting them be responsible for paying Medicaid. He wants seniors to be given subsidy checks for Medicare and let them decide how to spend. Will it cause more to be paid in for health expenses? Will new taxes need to be imposed to rescue these systems? Will this increase the demand for "early bird" dinners in Boca? Is healthcare reform the answer? These decisions will affect me and my employees.
We'll be hearing lots of debate on these issues over the next few months. And that's a good thing. So thank you Governor Romney. With the selection of Rep. Ryan you've made the economy your number one issue. And with this selection, you've created a pretty darn handsome looking couple. Oh, and thank you President Obama. You have respectfully agreed to take on the candidate(s) with your own vision of how you would address our economic problems. Small business owners appreciate this. And even though I wish I looked more like Paul Ryan and less like George Costanza, even I appreciate this. I appreciate the respect. I get so little of it nowadays.
A version of the above appeared on Inc.com