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Tim Berry Headshot

Voting for Small Business

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A few days ago I declined the honor of commenting in the press on which of the two presidential candidates would be better for small business. I know why I'm asked. I own a business, we have 45 employees, and decent (multi-million-dollar) sales. We have no outside investors, and we've never missed payroll in 25 years (except when I didn't pay myself).

The following day I saw an analysis of how and why small business owners should vote for John McCain. It was done by a man I respect, know and like, a journalist with pull in the small business world. He has a good reputation.

And that disturbs me for several reasons.

  • First and foremost, it's crazy to vote for president based on the supposed details of what's best for my business. What's best for my business on the long run is whatever is best for my country. Before I go into my office every morning, I walk or drive through the town I live in. I pass schools, homes, and businesses. We win together, or we lose. When I get to the office, I deal with sales involving thousands of Web users, all of whom are affected by what my government does for the population in general, not what it does for a small minority of business owners. Voting simply on small business issues related directly to my business is like sticking my head in the sand.
  • Secondly, I'm not at all sure he's even right about the Republican offerings.
    • I've been signing checks for employee health care for 15 years now. We've never linked our benefits to exactly what the government wants for us; we've always done a lot better than minimum requirements. As far as I can tell, ironically, the Democratic platform leaves us alone to do what we've always done, and the Republican platform messes with us a lot, and not in a way that's good for the company or our employees. And I'm no expert, but it doesn't seem to me like it's good for the general population either.
    • The arguing about tax rates seems to be full of misinformation. The campaigning seems to mislead people on what it is to have $250K in profits; that's a lot of profits. Don't confuse that with having sales of $250K. I think I read that the Democrats say that only 2% of businesses make more than that in profits. I'm surprised that it's that high. 
    • Furthermore, who are we kidding? Tax rates these days are about how we calculate taxable income, not about the final rates. It's all smoke and mirrors.
    • And if we fix the deficit spending a bit by raising taxes, that's much better for all business that the hike which affects a small minority, and not the main public, even if we're part of that small minority. Ultimately, in my business at least, we want our buyers to have money.

    Ultimately, when people start talking for small business, they're almost always off base. Small business includes more than 21 million business owners in this country, not counting the millions more who own shares in large businesses. We don't vote as a block. We are as diverse as the country itself. And, I guess this is a cheesy statement, but I think each of us should vote for what we think is best for the country, not just what's supposedly best for our specific business.

    But that (what I've stricken out above) is too damn non-committal. Let's just get to the real meat of it, which is that the Republicans have co-opted a lot of small business analysis to foster this misinformation, as if that bait-and-switch McCain health care plan and the pie-in-the-sky tax cuts were really good for anybody in small business. What it's really good for is confusing issues, and its authors are same Republican leadership that has laid siege on the SBA and made business harder for everybody. The only thing they've really done for small business is add to our numbers by turning so many formally medium-sized and larger businesses of the past into small businesses today.