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The Bush Tax Breaks and Small Business 101

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Recently, Senator Dean Heller of Nevada was quoted in the New York Times as having said of Democrats, "I believe what their goal is to tax every small business." He was referring to the upcoming fight over extending (again) the Bush tax breaks.

Never mind the fact that the Bush tax breaks, especially the extra breaks for the richest 2 percent of Americans, have completely failed to boost the economy. Speaking as a small business owner, I wish those who share Senator Heller's views on taxes would leave the real small business community out of their defense of the 1%'s bank accounts.

Is Senator Heller really representing the best interests of small businesses? Let's see how his claim, that ending Bush's breaks for income over $250,000 a year will "tax every small business," stacks up against reality. While the facts won't back up the rhetoric, they do show how out of touch many politicians are with what life is really like on Main Street.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities pointed out in this research piece in 2010 that a mere 3 percent of American taxpayers who report business income of any kind (let alone from a real small business) earn above the $250,000 threshold. Oh, and about that 3 percent figure: it includes the likes of hedge fund managers, partners in major law firms, best-selling authors, even K Street lobbyists. Take those high earners out and how many real small business owners will be left? Only a tiny fraction.

Just like most Americans, small business owners make a living. That is to say, if we are frugal and clever (most of us are one or the other, both is rare and admired) we may put our kids through college, plan and maybe save enough for retirement, pay off our mortgages and if we manage debt well, enjoy a modicum of financial security. But 250k a year? That is a fantasy we share with everyone who brings a middle class check home and struggles to make the family budget work. If only... life would be so much simpler.

Of course, there is one way real small businesses across America will be impacted if the special Bush tax breaks for income over 250k are extended again: that move will blow an ever bigger hole in the budget and force draconian austerity policies like those wreaking havoc across Europe today. Across the pond, you may have noticed, every day another report highlights a once successful small business closing up for good. If this is Senator Heller's idea of help, we're better off without it.

Let's be clear, any move to extend these special breaks for income over a quarter of a million dollars a year is another giveaway for the richest Americans, and small business owners will pay the price as the middle class -- the bedrock of our customer base -- continues to disappear. Translation: if you own an auto repair shop that services anything less ostentatious than a Bentley, you're gonna have fewer customers coming through the door.

If we've got a confidence problem in the economy, do you think it might just have something to do with the deficit hysteria ranted by every right wing ideologue with access to a smartphone? That hysteria translates directly to the teacher whose job is threatened foregoing the new tires she really needs and instead just getting an oil change. That's bad news for your neighborhood auto mechanic. For your friendly local cabinet maker (me), it translates into a nauseating sea of ups and downs in my business.

And that is why I'd like to ask Senator Heller and his pals Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and Eric Cantor to leave folks like me out of their defense of those harmful tax breaks for the wealthy and quit making these outrageous misrepresentations of the small business community.

Out here in the real world, small business owners like me are as scared as a laid off worker a month away from losing her unemployment check. We are right smack in the middle of the 99%. And when the glowing numbers on the alarm clock roll through 2 a.m. on a sleepless night, it's the absolute cluelessness of politicians like Senator Heller that scares us most of all.