Nearly a thousand small business owners from around the country are gathered in Washington DC this week to share concerns, thoughts and ideas at the Small Business Summit sponsored by the US Chamber of Commerce.
No matter what workshop, no matter what speaker, no matter what small business owner, the #1 topic of discussion is ObamaCare and how it will affect small business owners in just 8 short months. Adding to the angst is the 7’ high pile of printed regulations already released and the federal government isn’t even half way through the regulatory process. Will the final pile be 14’ tall or 20’ or 30’? No one seems to know, other than the over-arching fear that in government-speak, bigger is always better.
Governor Paul LePage (R-ME) summed up his concerns that ObamaCare (he says it is euphemistically called the Affordable Care Act) “will put this country in a downward spiral” and will “ruin the American dream”. His own constituents in Maine have already seen their health care premiums more than double this year with insurance company warnings that it will double or triple again next year. The Governor uttered perhaps the most quotable tag line of the entire Small Business Summit with his observation that “investment capital goes where it is welcomed and stays where it is appreciated” and that is no longer the case in the United States of America. If the American Dream is to give citizens the “opportunity to earn success”; then the Governor posits that ObamaCare turns the Dream on its head by giving citizens the “opportunity to learn dependency”.
Governor Tom Corbett (R-PA) seconded his compatriot’s comments and added that the one thing small business owners need in order to be successful is regulatory certainty. With just 4 months to go before most insurance plans’ open enrollment season begins, no small business owner has any idea what ObamaCare really means to their business. They know it’s going to be a hit to their bottom line – but how much it will affect their ability to eke out a profit is a great mystery.
Governor Corbett’s comments were echoed by speaker Karen Kerrigan, President & CEO of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, who noted that “certainty is the life blood of business”. All small business owners are trying to figure out what can be done to mitigate impending health care increases caused by ObamaCare. In the meantime, they are keeping their powder dry!
In a private kick-off session for the Chamber’s Small Business Council, Vice President for Small Business Policy Giovanni Coratolo, set the stage for the rest of the Summit’s speakers by commenting that ObamaCare “undermines the small business owners’ right to succeed. No longer are the entrepreneur’s rewards commensurate with the risks.”
Coratolo’s thoughts were underscored by Matt Walker, Vice President of the National Restaurant Association who made the observation that the Administration and Congress “vastly underestimated how reticent small business owners would be to hire and invest” until the full impact of ObamaCare on their businesses could be determined. Thus, paving the way for yet another year of agonizingly slow economic recovery.
The only positive note at the Summit was sounded by noted columnist/political commentator/physician Dr. Charles Krauthammer who opened his off the cuff remarks with “It’s good to be with the 53%; now my job is to cheer you up”. While he was sure that ObamaCare was going to be a January 1st “train wreck”, he also said that conservatism is as alive now as it has ever been in the past and to watch the new leaders emerge as 2016 gets closer.
Small Business Council member and Summit attendee, Betty Jo Toccoli who is President of Total One Development Center in Los Angeles, CA wasn’t heartened by Krauthammer’s 2016 predictions. Her observation that conservatism and support of capitalism or even small business is dead and buried in California does not bode well for any California-based small business owner. She sees “a profound anti business climate” around her and backs it up with new statistics that show California used to have 3.3 million small businesses – one-third of them were not just self-employed but real businesses with employees. Today only 600,000 small businesses in California have employees. Toccoli’s observations are buttressed by the statistics showing that California had the worst “small business failure rate” in the country in 2010 (69% higher than the national average). In 2011 it was ranked 50th out of all 50 states in new business creation.
If small business is the American goose that lays the golden eggs to keep America’s economy robust, that goose appears to be on life support.