Washington Is Kicking Small Businesses While They're Down

08/15/2011 02:12 pm ET | Updated Oct 15, 2011
  • Robert Levin Editor-In-Chief, The New York Enterprise Report

When I review my employees' performance, one of the things I give them feedback on is the degree of "owner's mentality" they have toward the business and their work. Or, said another way, are they treating the business like it was their own? I wish that our elected officials in Washington had some owner's mentality toward their work.

While they are campaigning, every politician talks about the importance of small business to the health of the economy. Unfortunately, for most of them, that is where their interest in small business stops. As business owners, we're accustomed to laws and policies at the federal, state, and local level that make it harder to conduct and succeed in business. However, the debt deal reached earlier this month, as well as its after-effects, brings Washington's "assistance" for small businesses to a new low.

Everyone knows that the nation's debt situation is a ticking time bomb, and Washington essentially kicked the can down the road once again. Disappointingly, they turned down opportunities to pass better debt deals that would have reduced the deficit to a much larger degree. Had they passed those stronger deficit reducing deals, my bet is that S&P wouldn't have downgraded our country's debt. Now the country -- no, the world -- is dealing with the US government debt downgrade, which has already affected consumer confidence.

U.S. consumer sentiment has fallen to its lowest level since May 1980, according to an early August reading of Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan's index. Even before the downgrade, business owners had negative growth expectations. Most business owners that I speak with say that maintaining or increasing sales is the biggest obstacle they have been facing.

Danielle Seltzer, executive director of the Executives' Association of New York City (EANYC), a networking organization of independent businesses, said that it's too soon for most of her members to know exactly what the effect of the downgrade will be, but they are clearly concerned. "Several of our members have expressed their disappointment with Washington because the downgrade creates uncertainty and the perception that the economy will worsen, which discourages businesses from spending and investing in growth," said Seltzer. She added, "They feel the downgrade could have been avoided had the government acted in a timely, responsible manner -- not in the last minute of the 11th hour."

The bottom line is that the political shenanigans that led to the current debt deal are essentially kicking small businesses while they are down.

When the recession hit in 2007, we business owners realized that we had to do business differently. We made painful decisions to do the right things that resulted in jobs being kept and our businesses staying afloat. Those that didn't make those tough decisions are not in business today. Now, Mr. President, senators, and congressmen, we need you to make some painful decisions (i.e., decisions that some of your more extreme constituents might not love) and do the right thing for the country and for those small businesses that you claim to value. While a more meaningful debt deal may not be on the table until after the 2012 election, at the very least make sure the process to be undertaken by the debt deal super committee goes smoothly. Said another way, our businesses need you to take some ownership.