It's beginning to look a lot like 1994.
Just as former Democratic President Bill Clinton faced political opposition when Republicans took both houses of Congress that year, sitting President Barack Obama is likely to face similar pressures if next week's midterm elections go the way of the GOP, as many pollsters predict. While this will surely present difficulties for the country's chief executive, the new regime might not do much to upset the status quo for the nation's small business--for good or bad.
Most forecasts have Republicans besting the Democrats by seven seats for a 52-48 advantage. Taking over both chambers of Congress would almost certainly mean big changes for small business owners on Capitol Hill, right? Not exactly.
Many economists and small business leaders aren't convinced that a GOP-led Senate would be beneficial for small businesses, even with Republican promises to cut taxes for small businesses and reduce federal regulation.
Just ask, Zoltan Acs, formerly the Chief Economic Advisor for the U.S. Small Business Administration. "My unpopular view is that neither side supports small business," says Acs, now a researcher at the London School of Economics. "What would help small business would be for the economy to pick up. For that to happen, the housing sector needs to pick up again, and that's the million-dollar question: How to restore housing as the driver of the economy."
This election has been all about jobs. But experts say there is a disconnect between proposed legislation and job growth. Matthew J. Slaughter, an economics professor at Dartmouth, isn't optimistic about the outcomes that Republicans can produce. He says, besides cutting taxes, which could help create some jobs, not much will change, based on looking at a variety of Republican proposals.
Slaughter reviewed almost 50 pieces of Republican-proposed legislation. "Some of those things will help," Slaughter told the New York Times recently. "But it just struck me as sort of a compendium of modest expectations. If you ask me, 'What's your ballpark guess for how many jobs are going to be created?' it's just not many."
Another major hallmark of Republican legislation is the reduction of federal regulation across the board, a move praised by many small businesses. And while that too could certainly help businesses in the near term, the long-term effects could be devastating.
So how can Republicans help small businesses? Immigration reform. "The U.S. should make it easier for students to stay in this country and be entrepreneurs," says Zacs. "This is one of the most important pieces of legislation."