Economy & Budget

Obama takes a toll on small business

President Obama usually trains his rhetorical fire on broadly unpopular groups such as “rich folks,” Wall Street “fat cats” and big corporations that he claims conspire to buy elections.

But last week he targeted the engine of the American economy, small business. Lost in the uproar over Obama’s anti-business rhetoric is just how anti-business Obama’s policies have been.

“If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that,” Obama said recently in Roanoke, Virginia. “Somebody else made that happen.”

That somebody would be the state, which, Obama said, builds the roads business owners need to ply their trade.

Liberals claim that Obama’s comments have been taken out of context and that we must read between the lines of our supposedly golden-tongued orator-in-chief. What he meant, they insist, is that no successful business is built by one person alone – “It takes a village,” as Hillary Clinton would say. Of course, nobody has suggested that individuals do not live in a society or that one man’s success is his alone.

Obama’s message is that no one can succeed without the government. Which begs the question: What about businesses that fail? Will Obama take credit for “ma[king] that happen” too?

Obama’s remarks provoked an avalanche of criticism from small business owners across the country, many of whom have spent Obama’s first term struggling against government regulations, taking second mortgages and working 18-hour days and seven-day weeks just to make ends meet.

For many small businesses, any success they’ve enjoyed has been despite the meddling of government, not because of its help.

Obama’s comments again exposed Obama’s disconnect from Main Street. They were reminiscent of Obama’s remark in June 2012 that the private sector was “doing fine.”

By the way, no conservative would object if the government’s activities were narrowed down to the building and maintaining of the country’s infrastructure. Their objections with Obama have to do with him putting America on the road to becoming a cradle-to-grave welfare state, not to the building of roads, a basic government service paid for with our tax dollars and performed by other small companies.

Obama’s policies have devastated the business community. A study by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) noted that Obamacare will “reduce private sector employment by 125,000 to 249,000 jobs by 2021, with 59 percent of those losses falling on small business.”

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that Obamacare will cost American businesses that do not comply with its regulations $52 billion. As businessman Steve Zelnak wrote in U.S. News & World Report:

For a small-to-medium sized business, the prospect of having to comb through the 2,700 pages of Obamacare to figure out which of the $525 billion in taxes, or $26 billion in penalties, or hundreds of new regulations and mandates apply to them is daunting, to say the least. Is it any surprise that healthcare costs have risen already? Fifty-seven percent of employers nationwide say that healthcare costs have risen due to Obamacare, and in my home state of North Carolina, premium costs are projected to increase by 5.2 percent over last year’s costs.

In his book The Amateur, Ed Klein quotes Harry Alford, president and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, which represents two million black businesses. Alford told Klein that most of his members were excited about Obama becoming president. “We didn’t really care about his position or views on anything,” he said, “We just wanted a black president no matter what.”

But, Alford adds, “We should have been more careful, as his views on small business, especially black business, are counter to ours. His view of business is that it should be a few major corporations which are totally unionized and working with the government, should also be massive and reaching every level of American society.”

Alford complained to Klein that an Obama executive order reinstating Project Labor Agreements in government contracts “give labor unions an exclusive [option] in construction jobs,” which he says discriminates against minority workers because “trade unions deliberately under-employ them…So here we were with a black president who deliberately discriminates against small businesses, women and minorities. How ironic!”

Obama’s message in Roanoke was part of his grand strategy to link more and more of what individuals do not to their own hard work or to the help of civil society, but rather to the beneficence of government.

But small business owners and workers know better. They’ve seen the toll Obama’s policies have taken on their businesses. Obama’s comments were a slap in the face of anyone whose small business has succeeded or survived despite Obama’s regulatory state.

Liberals often accuse big corporations of having too much influence in our elections. But if Obama continues his current line of attack, he will have much more to worry about on Election Day from the influence of small and medium-sized business owners, who may vote against him en masse.

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