Washington is awash in rhetoric about the importance of America's small businesses as engines of economic recovery, but there is little to no action coming out of the policy arena to help these businesses actually fuel economic growth. Instead, they have been largely left out of the policy discussion when it comes to the president's American Jobs Act and our national debt.
It's politics as usual, as the fight over the president's jobs bill leaves America's unemployed and underemployed wondering if Washington actually gets it. Our policymakers like to claim they want to help the small business community, but don't take action to back it up. The economic outlook for our nation's smallest businesses -- the self-employed and micro-businesses -- is bleak even if we avoid the threatening double-dip recession. Giving small businesses the support they need to turn things around should be a top priority that rises above party politics on Capitol Hill.
Too many of the current policy proposals are focused on what Washington sees as the job-producing class -- the wealthiest Americans -- who are clearly not creating jobs with or without generous incentives. We need a national self-employment initiative to help America's smallest businesses survive the current economic turmoil and help some of the nine million people who are out of work.
What should this national initiative entail?
First, the initiative should prioritize simplifying the tax code and creating tax parity for self-employed businesses. When President Obama proposed his jobs plan before a Joint Session of Congress, I suggested:
"The president and Congress can start by making the tough decisions. The tax code is a good place to start. Self-employed business owners need to be CEO, COO and head of sales as well as their own accountants. They don't have the luxury of big business accounting departments that can manage the complicated and ever-changing tax system."
Second, direct small business financing to start-ups and the self-employed. Access to capital is crucial to the growth of new firms and micro-lending is especially important to help bolster the self-employed.
Third, foster entrepreneurship education in secondary schools as well as colleges and universities. Make starting a business a viable career option for our young Americans and teach them the skills they need to turn their ideas into profitable businesses.
Finally, assist all states in launching self-employment training programs for residents. These training programs should be available free to all unemployed citizens providing them with an avenue to create their own job, should they be unable to find one.
These long-term policy solutions are a recipe for innovation and job creation, two concepts that everyone in Washington should get behind.
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