Earlier this week, members of the Small Business Majority’s small business owner network met with President Obama at the White House to discuss the major problems facing small business owners in America. The number one concern voiced by the small business owners? Boosting the overall economy and stimulating growth.
On Thursday, the Small Business Majority and The Hill newspaper sponsored a panel of congressmen, small business owners, and economists to discuss these issues in detail-- and offer up possible policies that could help small businesses thrive in a post-recession economy.
The event was split into two parts: First, a handful of senators and congressmen gave their ideas and then a group of small business owners and policy experts gave theirs.
Not surprising: When push came to shove, the concerns of the congressmen didn’t necessarily align with those of small businesses. While the government representatives focused on taxes and Obamacare, the other half of the panel talked about access to capital and cutting red tape.
In terms of tax reform, Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) stressed the importance of closing tax loopholes that allow large corporations to pay next to nothing in taxes--which in turn, he said, put small businesses at a disadvantage.
“These tax evasion gimmicks that are used by these large corporations--some of the most profitable organizations that we have--have cost the treasury hundreds of billions of dollars,” said Levin. “We can’t afford these losses to the treasury.”
Levin further argued that these loopholes must be closed through extensive tax reform and the taxes collected should be funneled to the defecit, a plan outlined in his bill--the Stop the Tax Haven Abuse Act.
Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) added he'd like to lower corporate and personal income taxes while increasing consumption taxes. “We have fundamental problems in our tax code and small businesses pay a heavy price for that,” said Cardin.
Congressman Chris Collins (R-NY) agreed on the need for tax reform but heavily emphasized the need to make changes to the Affordable Care Act--that the costs were too burdensome for small business owners. He even argued to appeal it in its entirety.
Following the speeches from Collins, Levin and Cardin, the panel took the stage. It included small business owners Ann Zimmerman (from Ohio) and Mike Roche (from Oregon), director of federal tax policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities Chuck Marr, senior vice president of research analysis and chief economist for the Credit Union National Association Bill Hample, and Jason Fichtner--senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.
“Small business right now is more concerned with how we get more customers walking through the door. That’s what’s on the minds of most business owners, that and access to capital,” said Roche. “These issues aren’t as sexy or controversial, but they are very important to small businesses.”
In terms of tax reform, Marr argued that though it could be a potential solution to the problems at hand--it would take too long.
“While an abstract cut in tax rates is good, people are loss averse and people value what they have. This can slow things,” said Marr.
When it comes to access to capital, the group favored a loosening of regulations for credit unions. The panel specifically addressed the Credit Union Small Business Jobs Creation Act as a good option and a bill they think Congress should be focused on passing.
“The amount of borrowing available to small businesses is still way below the level it was at before the recession. This is a complicated, nuanced thing but one portion of the solution would be to allow credit unions to do a bit more of the prudent small business lending that they do,” said Hample.