By Dan Danner
Washington, D.C. — American small-business owners didn’t have high hopes that President Obama would remove the obstacles preventing them from creating jobs, so they weren’t terribly surprised when he rolled out his lackluster American Jobs Act before a joint session of Congress.
The nation’s job creators learned long ago that the president’s warm words for Main Street rarely translate into anything that really helps. To the contrary, his words are usually followed by actions that have a harmful effect.
One of the president’s original promises to small business, early in his presidency, was that of more affordable health care. That sounded great. But, instead, small businesses are facing uncertainty and increasing costs since the monstrous health-care bill was signed into law.
More recently, the president has given lip service to the disproportionately high cost paid by small businesses to comply with burdensome federal regulations. Again, he sounded like he might understand the small-business struggle, but his actions have flown in the face of his own words. President Obama refuses to actually rein in his army of rule writers who continue to steadily churn out thousands of expensive regulations.
For small business, the president’s words sound a lot like crying wolf. When there is nothing real behind the words, the small-business community will eventually stop listening. Many of America’s entrepreneurs already have. This is dangerous in an economy that desperately needs small-business optimism and job creation.
To his credit, President Obama did extend the offer of tax breaks for small firms as part of his jobs proposal. Unfortunately, the tax cut for all businesses is only temporary, and claiming the bulk of the cuts is conditional on hiring new workers or giving existing workers a raise. This isn’t meaningful for small-business owners who need more customers before they can even consider hiring more employees or increasing payroll.
The president’s jobs plan revealed, once again, that his understanding of the business community is shallow at best. He doesn’t seem to see that, unlike the federal government, small businesses refuse to take on more debt when there’s virtually no possibility of a return on investment. And they certainly won’t hire new employees or raise wages of those already on the payroll if there are few customers to buy their goods and services. It’s simple math.
President Obama needed to say something very different from his usual hollow promises to capture the attention and impact the optimism of America’s small-business community. The fact that he didn’t is not good news for the American economy. The longer he misses the mark with America’s job creators, the longer our unemployment numbers will stay put.
Dan Danner is president and CEO of the National Federation of Independent Business, which represents 350,000 small-business owners in Washington, D.C. and every state capitol.