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Time for the NFIB to Change Its Name

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Here's a suggestion for the National Federation of Independent Business, the group that led the legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act all the way to the Supreme Court and has now spent over $1 million in the 2012 elections, every dollar of it either supporting Republicans or attacking Democrats.

Given NFIB's demonstrated commitment to partisan politics and ideological stands, isn't it time for a name change? A few suggestions come to mind:

How about the RFIB (Republican Federation of Independent Business) or the CFIB (Conservative FIB) -- then small business owners would know exactly who is lobbying in our name in statehouses across the country and in Washington, DC.

Or how about the National Federation of Karl Rove, since NFIB saw fit to take $3.7 million from the Rove-backed Crossroads GPS dark money group in 2010?

Or, why not knock off the N and shorten its name to the Federation of Ideological Businesses. It's elegant. It's simple. It's the FIB. After all, that is what they do every time they say they represent the voice of small business, a constituency that is in reality as diverse as the country itself.

The latest evidence of NFIB's extremism? This week, it spent over $10,000 on mailings attacking Claire McCaskill in the Missouri Senate race, thereby throwing its support behind a Tea Party candidate (Todd Akin) whose views are so extreme he was asked to drop out of the race by mainstream Republicans.

But even if you set these election activities aside, NFIB's positions on policy are about hardline dogma, not pragmatic support for small businesses. NFIB fought tooth and nail against the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare"), and then sued to overturn it in the courts. It also backs tax cuts for the ultra rich, and worked with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to fund a "study" claiming ending special tax cuts at the top would kill jobs -- a study that conveniently became a central talking point in last week's presidential debate.

These positions aren't about helping small businesses. In fact, opposing health care reform and backing more tax giveaways at the top is advancing an agenda that does far more harm than good for 97 percent of real small businesses.

The health care law is good for small businesses that now cover our employees -- it's going to give us some bargaining power, stop insurance companies from ripping us off, and reduce cost-shifting. It's good for all the self employed people and mom and pop businesses that haven't been able to afford health care before -- they're going to get the security of health coverage for the first time thanks to premium subsidies and new rules prohibiting pre-existing condition denials.

The Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, meanwhile, help less than 3 percent of "small businesses" -- and even that figure is an overestimate because it counts businesses that are small in name and corporate organization only, businesses like hedge funds, corporate law firms, authors and celebrities -- we're not talking here about the guy down the street who fixes your car or comes to your rescue when the plumbing backs up.

The bottom line: about a third of small business owners identify as liberal, a third moderate, and a third conservative -- almost exactly how voters divide politically. The overwhelming majority of small business owners do not subscribe to the extremist views represented by politicians like Todd Akin and, now, the NFIB.

Since the NFIB has taken large amounts of cash from hardline conservative groups like Crossroads GPS and is now backing extremist politicians like Akin, it has turned itself into a partisan political organization -- not a small business support organization -- and it should be honest enough to say so.

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