The nation’s 30 million small business owners could be the voting block that decides the presidential election. What will they look for at tonight’s debate? The candidate who outlines the best vision for a robust, small business-led economic recovery from the Covid-19 recession.
To start, that means getting the candidates’ perspectives on another lockdown. Debate moderator Chris Wallace must press Joe Biden on his recent claim, “I would shut it down” again if scientists say. Another lockdown would devastate small businesses and the broader economy. There’s also no correlation between lockdowns and Covid-19 prevalence.
Already, more than half of businesses that have closed in recent months won’t reopen, according to a new report by Yelp. If Biden doubles down on his support for forcibly closing companies in the name of reducing Covid-19 spread, then he will lose any support he may have from the nation’s employers.
In contrast, if Trump articulates a clear and objective agenda for a smart and safe reopening, allowing entrepreneurs to bring the economy back to its former glory, he can consolidate his small business support.
Another major issue that employers want addressed tonight is the candidates’ plans to stop widespread riots that are infecting cities across the country. Rioting and violent protests destroy storefronts or create an atmosphere into which ordinary Americans don’t want to venture. Small businesses need their towns’ Main Streets to return to vibrancy and civility. Growing riots threaten not only the earnings of stores located in the riot zones but also the businesses that supply them. If Biden continues tacitly to support riots by refusing to condemn them strongly, he will lose the small business vote.
If Biden winks to the defund the police movement, he will further alienate this vital voting block. To paraphrase Charles Barkley’s comments from last weekend, Who are small businesses supposed to call when crime occurs if police are defunded, Ghostbusters?
In contrast, if President Trump lays out a strong law and order message, explaining the real-world consequences of violence, rioting, and public menacing, he can bolster his support from employers looking to conduct business safely.
Then there are the perennial issues that are always important to small businesses: taxes, regulations, and healthcare reform. Chris Wallace should make sure to get the candidates on the record regarding their plans in these policy areas that disproportionately affect entrepreneurs.
For instance, Biden wants to dramatically raise taxes, which the Tax Foundation projects will lower income for Americans in all income groups. Biden plans to raise taxes on small businesses structured as pass-throughs, raise the tax rate for small businesses structured as corporations by 33 percent, and eliminate the cap on the payroll tax paid by both employers and employees.
Yet Biden’s been cagey about whether he’d repeal President Trump’s 20 percent small business tax deduction, which has allowed countless businesses around the country to hire, raise wages, and invest. Wallace should press Biden on his plans for this deduction, and if Biden says he’ll spike it, then small business owners considering supporting him should flee.
Biden has also supported a litany of regulations that would make it impossible for some businesses to operate. He backs a $15 minimum wage, Green New Deal-esque energy regulations, and a healthcare public option. Some low-margin businesses, including neighborhood dry cleaners, car washes, and diners, don’t have profit margins that allow them to absorb these measures’ massive costs.
Biden’s public option would crowd out and destabilize employer-provided health insurance, which covers most Americans, because employees — mostly young and healthy — would flee their plans for the “free” option. Businesses would face rising healthcare costs as a result. The public option is also just a train stop on the track to a disastrous single-payer system.
In contrast, President Trump has strong tax, regulation, and healthcare credentials, evidenced by his past few years in office. In addition to laying out his plans for the Covid recovery and restoring law and order, he must burnish these small business bona fides tonight before the nation. If he doesn’t deliver this focused message, some entrepreneurs may stay home or vote third-party on Election Day. Neither the president nor the country can afford that outcome.
Alfredo Ortiz is the president and CEO of the Job Creators Network.