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STEPHEN MOORE: Why Small Businesses Hate Bidenomics

(Jan. 24. 2024/Screenshot/CSPAN)

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Stephen Moore Contributor
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If the economy is so good, then why do small business leaders feel so bad?

The latest National Federation of Independent Business “Small Business Optimism Index” could hardly be more depressing. It finds that the men and women who run our 33 million small businesses and hire more than half of American workers are in a somber mood. Small business confidence reached its lowest point in 12 years.

Amazingly, small company CEOs are more fearful of the future today than even during the Covid pandemic, when most businesses were shuttered. The index has fallen for most of the entire Biden presidency.

The confidence numbers have gotten worse every year Biden has been in office. Here are the numbers: March 2021 98.2; March 2022 93.2; March 2023 90.1; March 2024 88.9.

Why are small-business men and women feeling so dour even at a time when the GDP is growing? I asked that question to former Trump Treasury Undersecretary and former World Bank President David Malpass. Malpass has observed all over the world what factors make small businesses successful and puts their owners in a frame of mind to expand.

“Smaller businesses are being crowded out by complex regulations and direct competition from the $35 trillion national debt,” Malpass concludes. “The Treasury borrowed $23 trillion in 2023 alone, much of it in the expensive short maturities needed by smaller businesses for working capital.”

The NFIB data is merely a survey and sometimes business owners and investors act differently than they say they will. But there is more real data on how small companies are expanding. The latest Federal Reserve data through March shows that commercial and industrial loans, a key resource for small business dynamism, fell over 5% in the last year in nominal terms, down over 8% after adjusting for inflation. Yikes. Without investment, it’s hard for businesses to grow.

Alfredo Ortiz, who runs the Job Creators Network, which represents tens of thousands of small business owners, says: “Our members feel as though Biden has declared war on small businesses.” He says they’re worried that a second Biden term would mean higher taxes, more regulations, and a continuation of high prices.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration seems frustrated and even indignant that more businesses aren’t supporting the White House program. But remember: Neither President Biden nor nearly any of his top officials have ever started or even worked for a small or medium-sized business. They don’t have any feel for how their own policies impact the nation’s employers.

As an example, the Biden administration wants to put in serious jeopardy the franchise model where thousands of small entrepreneurs can start their own McDonalds or Arby’s or retail store representing well known and trusted brands. They want the parent companies to be on alert that they can be sued for violations of labor laws, EPA edicts, or federal “diversity” requirements, or can be on the hook for lawsuits against their franchises.

This could be the death of thousands of small and independent-owned franchises. The Labor Department wants small businesses to allow unions to run their stores.

What is so sinister here is that the franchise model for opening up new businesses is an-almost entirely unique American model of business growth. Entrepreneurial immigrants can come into the country, scrounge around for savings and pool family and then own and operate a Popeyes or a clothing store.

Biden also wants to nearly double the capital gains tax, which will scare away angel investors in small startup companies. If owners of a small- or medium-sized business plow their profits back into the company so it can expand, Biden would tax the “unrealized capital gains” on that investment.

Meanwhile, Biden is happy to give a big head start in the form of billions of dollars of grants and low-interest loans for the largest corporations from GM to chip maker Intel so they can expand their operations on the taxpayers’ dime. These corporate welfare programs tilt the playing field in favor of the sharks, not the small-business minnows.

It is no wonder that men and women who put their life savings on the line to build their businesses from scratch feel they’re under assault. They are being taxed and regulated to death while too-often, inflation eats away their modest profits.

No one in Washington is going to be “forgiving” their loans when the business conditions get rough and high interest rates make it tough to get emergency loans. There is no safety net — and no “too big to fail” aid package — for the heroes of our economy, who have become the punching bag of big government.

Stephen Moore is a Senior Fellow at the Heritage Foundation and a co-founder of the Committee to Unleash Prosperity.  His latest book is: “Govzilla: How the Relentless Growth of Government Is Devouring Our Economy.”

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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