Opinion

The 112th’s job: Boosting business confidence

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Karen Kerrigan
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      Karen Kerrigan

      Karen Kerrigan has developed positive relationships with individuals in media, government, public policy and advocacy organizations, and the private sector that have led to substantive reforms and initiatives to help America's entrepreneurial sector. Ms. Kerrigan is President & CEO of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council (http://www.sbecouncil.org/), a prominent and respected advocacy and research organization she founded in 1994. She is Founder of Women Entrepreneurs Inc. (http://www.we-inc.org/), a nonprofit business association that helps women business owners succeed through education, networking and advocacy.

      Ms. Kerrigan regularly testifies before the U.S. Congress on issues that impact America's small business and entrepreneurial sector. She meets often with delegations from around the world that wish to learn about public policy recommendations and Best Practices in entrepreneurial training that will enhance and sustain business start- up and growth. In June 2002 she was appointed to serve on the National Women's Business Council (http://www.nwbc.gov/). In September 2002 she was appointed by the U.S. Treasury Secretary to serve on the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP). In 2003, at the President's Economic Summit in Waco, TX she led the Small Business session, the outcome being the enactment of key legislative and policy ideas identified at the event. She also participated in the December 2004 White House Economic Summit where she served as a speaker on the Affordable Health Care panel.

      She helped construct the Women Entrepreneurship in the 21st Century (http://www.women-21.com/) conferences sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor (DoL) and Small Business Administration, and helped to implement the National Women's Leadership Summit (Oct. 2004) and Flex Options for Women with the DoL's Women's Bureau. In May 2005, WE Inc. co-sponsored the first MidEast/North Africa Women's Business Summit in Tunis, Tunisia where Kerrigan also led a delegation of U.S. businesswomen to the groundbreaking event. In July 2005, she was appointed as a member of the National Advisory Committee for Labor Provisions of U.S. Free Trade Agreements to represent the business community. In November 2007, she was appointed to the board of directors of the Center for International Private Enterprise (www.cipe.org).

      In the February 2006 issue of Inc. Magazine, Kerrigan was listed on the "Best Friends in D.C." list for small business owners, profiled as a "power broker and activist" with "serious clout" for entrepreneurs. In May 2005 The Hill newspaper called Kerrigan "the hardest working woman in show business" and credited her leadership of the SBE Council for making it one of the top 5 influential groups representing small business. Fortune Small Business named Ms. Kerrigan to its Power 30 list of key advocates in Washington, in September 2000. In 1995, National Journal named Ms. Kerrigan to its short list of "K Street" activists most likely to have an impact on Capitol Hill. Campaigns and Elections Magazine named her as one of its "Rising Stars in Politics" in its April 1996 issue.

      Her commentary, analysis and written work have appeared in many of the nation's leading newspapers. Kerrigan pens the Beltway Small Business Report for Fox News. For more than a decade she wrote a regular column for the American City Business Journals - an influential network of weekly business newspapers in 50 major markets. She has appeared on ABC`s Nightline, The McLaughlin Group, CNN, CNBC, and Fox News Television among others. She has been a guest on hundreds of radio talk shows.

      Ms. Kerrigan is a native of New York, and holds a BA degree in Political Science from Cortland College (SUNY). She resides in Northern Virginia.

To boost confidence among entrepreneurs and investors, America’s political leaders need to send positive, pro-business signals. Members of Congress and President Obama have talked a good game of supporting small business, but the policies of the past two years have been downright hostile. Indeed, it’s time for a major shift in direction.

Small business owners and entrepreneurs are looking for signals and incentives to innovate, invest and add to their payrolls. To that end, paring back government regulations that are costly and unnecessary while advancing pro-growth measures that free up the time and resources of hard-working business owners need to be a priority. If our political leaders in Washington commit themselves to doing all they can to help American business early in 2011, confidence can be restored and healthy economic growth will follow.

Here are key issues the 112th Congress must focus on:

Tax reform: The tax system is a mess. Congress must work to secure a stable and competitive pro-entrepreneur tax system. An ever-changing tax code, as it now stands, with the potential for tax increases in 2012 does not instill full confidence in investors and the private sector. The tax mess needs to be addressed by locking in a pro-growth tax system.

Affordable health care: Paring back the most costly and damaging aspects of the new health care law (tax hikes, employer and individual mandates, anti-competitive regulatory measures, expanded 1099 reporting, etc.) is a necessary step towards encouraging job creation. Repealing Obamacare is the ideal solution, as its new taxes and regulations remain a source of anxiety for business owners. Currently, Obamacare is doing the opposite of what was promised — health care costs are rising, choices are being taken away, and — through an obscure waiver process — only the powerful and politically connected are able to escape the law’s grip, leaving small business owners left to comply with its costly consequences.

Regulatory restraint and accountability: Federal government agencies and departments are out of control. Quite simply, there is no accountability. Regulatory activists have lost touch with reality. From the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the U.S. Labor Department and beyond, Congress needs to step up and overrule harsh and unjustifiable regulatory action. Aggressive oversight is needed, which will curtail regulatory extremism in general.

Government spending: Cut, cut and cut more. The U.S. needs to get our fiscal house in order. Without such, our economy will underperform and investment and job creation will remain anemic.

Energy development and production: The U.S. needs to produce more energy — period. Gas prices are rising, and with diminished production we are on an unsustainable course, requiring us to import greater levels of oil and gas. Extreme anti-energy forces based at EPA (and lodged within the federal government in general) are hurting consumers, small business owners and U.S. competitiveness. Reversing the anti-energy trend is critical to bringing about stable and affordable energy prices.

Trade: Congress must quickly pass the South Korea trade deal and existing trade accords must be completed. The U.S. needs to get back in the game on trade, as we are losing ground to competitors. Opening additional global markets will provide small business owners with growth opportunities. The bulk of U.S. exporters are small to mid-sized firms — increased market access means more business for our entrepreneurs.