Disclaimer: This post is not meant to be an endorsement of any party or candidate but, rather, an exploration of issues affecting small business as shaped by what will *most likely* happen at the polls today.
Today’s election will be historic, no matter the outcome. If you’re anything near the political junkie that I am, you’ve been watching for the last few days the result projections of some of the major pundits from the basic and cable news networks, as well as from some of the bookies.
If there is a commonality here, it is that Barack Obama looks poised to win fairly big or really big; and that the Democrats will make gains in both the House and Senate – although the Senate “magic 60” number is still a far cry as of this writing.
Yet, if we assume the above, as David Gergen has noted on CNN, even without the Dems getting a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, they would still have a greatly enhanced ability to push through legislation that supports their agenda, with a president ready (on most issues) to sign it into law.
How would this scenario affect small businesses? A look at four issues that are central to their survival and success – two of which have been covered at length by candidates of the two major parties and the media, and two of which have been largely ignored – offer a clue.
- Obama’s plan, as detailed on his website, stresses cuts in capital gains taxes and additional tax cuts for corporations that create jobs in the U.S.
- The Democratic Party website also talks about efforts of the majority Democratic Congress (elected in 2006) to “slash regulations on small companies.”
- Point of contention: The now-familiar “Joe the Plumber” caveat: Entrepreneurs who start businesses that generate more than $250,000 in annual revenues would see their taxes go up – albeit to 1990s levels.
- Obama: Establishment of a new Small Business Health Tax Credit to help small firms provide affordable health insurance to their employees. He has also talked about creating an insurance pool that individuals and small firms can pay into and receive the same benefits that members of Congress receive.
- Democratic Party: Emphasis on cutting bureaucratic waste – chiefly by standardizing electronic medical records – that would, along with incentives to increase competition among health plans, reduce company-paid premiums over time.
- Point of contention: Nationalizing healthcare, which would mandate the coverage of children, would keep costs high.
Changes in Labor Laws – Specifically Enactment of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA)
- Obama: A Proponent of the EFCA; wants to make it easier for employees to form unions.
- Democratic Party: Behind the EFCA. They also list a goal of raising the minimum wage.
- Point of contention: The EFCA and federal increase in the minimum wage are both hotly contested issues, with adoption of both falling pretty squarely in the “workers, yay; business leaders, nay” columns. Since the federal minimum wage was just raised in July, the EFCA bill, if it were highly modified, might stand a better chance of gaining the support of small business leaders in the shorter term.
- Obama: Reduce the bureaucracy that slows the process for illegal immigrants to earn legal status, which he argues will “meet the demand for jobs that employers cannot fill.” Crack down on employers that hire undocumented immigrants.
- Democratic Party: Supports “economic development in migrant-sending nations, to reduce incentives to come to the United States illegally.” Long-term, this would ensure that tax dollars from businesses as well as individuals aren’t stretched as thin. The party also echoes Obama’s above concerns.
- Point of contention: This is a sticking point for leaders of some smaller firms that are actively hiring undocumented workers. Most other business leaders seem concerned that their taxes are not raised for inadequate or unnecessary measures to secure our borders.
So, would a fly on the wall of a small organization in February 2009 see a noticably different landscape than in the same firm today? Probably not. Still, it doesn’t hurt to project how the probable shift in the balance of power in Washington after today will play out for these enterprises. Who knows, it may even shape smaller-scale efforts – the things we love to talk about and help our clients refine – like employee engagement best practices and workplace team building.
What say you?
(Cross-posted from Winning Workplaces Blog)