Although American small-business owners survived Washington’s fiscal cliff fiasco, few of them are dancing in the streets. Instead, they’re bracing for yet another government-induced crisis as early as mid-February when our national debt hits its ceiling.
Although the cliff deal spared a majority of them a tax increase and will seize less of their estates, most entrepreneurs continue to despair. Few believe a “real” solution to the nation’s debt and addictive spending habits will be reached.
Their negative outlook for relief continues at historic low levels, according to the latest National Federation of Independent Business Optimism Index. And they aren’t alone in their worries. A new Gallup poll found that 77 percent of Americans believe politics is seriously harming the nation.
Every day, small-business owners make tough decisions in order to survive. Their way of life could be instructive for a government that desperately needs a role model.
Instead of taking “fact finding” junkets to foreign nations, perhaps lawmakers should spend their time visiting Main Street businesses. The owners are easy to spot. They’re the ones with worried brows standing close to the cash drawer doing everything they can to satisfy customers.
Two words: “How’s business?” will provide elected officials much greater insight into the concerns facing those job creators than countless hours of Capitol Hill committee hearings.
Asking “Is now a good time to expand?” will likely draw an “Are you kidding?” response, but it will keep the conversation going.
Lawmakers should then ask: “What can Washington do to help?” That will bring an earful, but the message will be simple: “Cut spending, reduce regulation, balance the budget.”
Yes, it is that simple. Whether you’re the greatest, most productive nation on earth or a one-shop small-business owner struggling to enjoy the American Dream, the fundamentals are the same.
Small-business owners who can’t afford expensive yachts, if they’re wise, don’t buy them. Governments that can’t afford unnecessary programs, if they’re honest with the taxpayers they represent, don’t shirk their fiduciary responsibilities and put their societies at risk.
What can Washington do to help? They can avoid this latest fiscal danger by simply adopting the small-business model of spending less than it takes in, re-investing for growth and saving for rainy days that will surely come. That’s not rocket science.
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 capital.