Conservative “Small Business” Owners Are Not Victims Of Progress

Their employees have been victims of oppression.
03/20/2017 10:51 am ET Updated Mar 20, 2017
Via Wikimedia Commons.

Let’s first operate under this knowledge from the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council: “In 2012, according to U.S. Census Bureau data, there were 5.73 million employer firms in the [United States]. Firms with fewer than 500 workers accounted for 99.7 percent of those businesses, and businesses with less than 20 workers made up 89.6 percent.

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the term “small business?” For me, it’s the mom and pop Chinese place a block down the street that have the best egg rolls I’ve ever eaten. Maybe to you it’s the warm and welcoming bakery, the local moving company that gave you a great deal, or the small ad agency focused on local challenger brands. And it makes sense since the vast majority of businesses in the US boasts less than 20 workers.

But according to this eye-opening Forbes article, “Depending on the industry, you could have 500, 1,000 or even 1,500 employees and still be considered a ‘small business.’ In general, nearly all businesses qualify with 500 employees.”

The Employer Mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) only applies to businesses with 50 or more employees. If you’re a trucking company with a hundred drivers, you’re a small business? In comparison to what, Amazon? We’re stretching the definition for all its worth and then presenting the image of the small business owner as the mom and pop shop with five employees, an image of businesses unaffected by the mandate.

The Forbes writer goes on to make the compelling point that the interests of a company with hundreds of employees won’t match businesses with 20 employees, but since their discourse is under this giant umbrella, “their message gets diluted.” It’s complicated even more by the fact that almost 75 percent of these businesses don’t even have any employees. The whole “small business” concept with regard to tax claims is so similar to that of the self-employed, they share an IRS Tax Center resource page. It’s easy to then assume that many small business owners, like many of the self-employed, benefit from the healthcare accessibility the ACA affords.

So, this doesn’t apply to all business owners, this applies to all the entrepreneurs who voted for Donald Trump because they’re a “small business” owner affected by the ACA, a man with a long history of stepping on the true version of the small business owner (“true” in the colloquial sense.)

When business owners cite not being able to afford healthcare for their full-time employees under the ACA mandate, that’s a full admission that they’re both not willing to provide a basic need and not paying their employees enough to afford it. That’s really diminishing the value you feel you’re offering when you utter the phrase: “I’m a job creator.”

People talk about the value of offering labor opportunities while ignoring this essential question: what’s the value of the job itself? Because if you’re not providing healthcare or the means to afford it — not to mention going so far as to support the repeal of the ACA—you’re leaving your employees high and dry.

It’s tough not to see the irony in offering something you deem valuable while not valuing those you’re offering it to. If your business is so fragile that offering healthcare to your more than fifty full-time employees puts you out of business, maybe you should be out of business. I honestly wish that on every “small business” owner who cites the ACA as their reason for their Trump vote or, comically worse, their outright financial support for his candidacy.

Besides, isn’t part of the Rockwellian image of the mom and pop shop not only about quality of service and product but also in how they treat employees? Isn’t the concept largely about community? There’s an obvious difference between working at a company for over thirty years while never having a conversation with the CEO versus having daily dialogues with the business owner directly.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but a small business owner being against the ACA makes them look even more unfeeling than the executives of corporate giants. At least they don’t have to look the people they undervalue in the eye. That takes a special kind of callousness. Then again, you can own an electric power distribution company with 1,000 employees and still be considered a small business, so maybe the apathy is comparable in most cases.

And all this isn’t even addressing the total and utter lack of attention put on part-time wage laborers forced to work multiple jobs at companies that are within their rights to compensate lightly while offering nil in benefits with or without the ACA (but worsened greatly without it).

You “had” to turn your full-time employee into a part-time employee because of the ACA. Couldn’t it be argued that you’re running the business poorly to begin with? The idea that the ACA mandate is a sob story for you and not an empowering regulation for an employee who requires the means to function when they’re medically in need is vomit-inducing.

And if you’re going to make me vomit, at least have the courtesy to stand within range.

If this resonated, please consider donating to the Chicago Foundation for Women, who “put time, talent, and money to work for women and girls who lack economic security and opportunity, freedom from violence, and equitable access to health care and services.”

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Check out my podcast Eat the Rich (we talk about this topic in Episode 9), give it a rating on iTunes if you dig it, and check out my cohost Renee Kuhl’s stuff on Medium.

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