Small business owners are biding their time during the congressional lame-duck session, but say things could look up for them when the newly elected Republicans enter office in January.
That was the assessment of representatives from several small business associations on Thursday, who offered their analysis of the midterm elections at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
“There is general sense that there will be some balance brought back to Capitol Hill,” said Karen Kerrigan, the president of the Small Business and Entrepreneurial Council. While Kerrigan said expectations are low that Congress will pass, or the president will sign, any major pro-business legislation, the leaders at the panel said they were optimistic.
“We’re encouraged by this election,” said John Palatiello, the president of the Business Coalition for Fair Competition. “This was a top-to-bottom sea change.”
Palatiello was particularly optimistic about the election of new attorneys general who, he said, will be able to “sue the federal government when it oversteps its bounds.”
The panel featured a spectrum of small business owners, with representatives of Black, Latino and women’s associations. Across the board, the biggest hope was that the Republican majority in the House will assist in repealing the 1099 provision in the recent health-care bill as well as make the tax cuts, implemented by President Bush, permanent.
Harry Alford, the president of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, went further: “Maintain the tax cuts, repeal the death tax. We don’t know of a tax we like. Eliminate all of the taxes as far as we’re concerned.”
Alford said one of the biggest issues for small business owners was the deficit and it was labor unions that were proving to be one the biggest obstacle in recharging the economy to reduce that deficit.
Minorities, he said, were three times more likely to be employed in right-to-work states than in states that had union shops. Alford said Obama has ignored much of the work force in favor of high-powered unions and prevented black-owned and minority businesses from competing in the market.
“We’ve got to take care of our unions, damn the rest of the country” said Alford, imitating Obama. “Ninety-eight percent of black businesses are not union … it is criminal.”
Apart from government-supported labor, Palatiello said the “unfair government competition” in areas as diverse as food-service and nurseries were another obstacle in allowing small business to successfully compete.
Kelly Scanlon, chairwoman of the National Association of Women Business Owners said entrepreneurs were feeling ignored while proving to be some of the most resilient groups in the bleak economy. Recent reports have shown that women small-business owners have become one of the fastest growing economic sectors and one of the most invaluable groups in revitalizing the economy.
Scanlon, however, said recent government policies put a weight on not just women entrepreneurs, but small business owners in general.
“A lot of the NAWBO members are saying, ‘just get out of our way.’ By that, it’s a government intrusion that’s been felt over the last couple of years.”
Scanlon said the post-2010 election period was a time to remind congress that small business is the “engine for the economy.”
“[We need to] just remind our congressional leaders that small business owners are not talking points. We’re not political footballs. We’re the economic backbone in this country,” she said. “They are out of sync and we have to make sure that they understand those on the ground, in the trenches [and] what business owners in this country are deal with. “