I grew up in a small business family. My father ran a shop printing fabric for draperies, and my brothers and I would pitch in and help when things got busy. I remember him standing hour after hour over the silkscreens, determined to provide a middle-class life for our family.
It's because of the lessons I learned from my father that helping small businesses succeed across America is about more than policy for me - it's personal. So when I launched my campaign for President, I made it a priority to hear directly from the men and women who run small businesses about the challenges they face, and their ideas for making it easier to do what they do best: innovate, grow, and create jobs.
Over the last year, I've visited small businesses that have been nurtured by families for generations, as well as new start-ups where the paint was still drying on the walls. I've toured factories where talented workers still "make it in America," and innovative firms doing work that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago. I've heard the pride in the voices of small business owners who stuck it out through tough times, and the frustration of aspiring entrepreneurs who just can't seem to get their business off the ground. The people I've met aren't looking for special breaks - just smart policies to make their lives a little easier.
This week, I'm rolling out a set of new ideas to support small businesses at every stage. As one entrepreneur told me in South Carolina, way too many dreams die in the parking lots of banks. You shouldn't have to be a powerful corporation with an army of lawyers and lobbyists to succeed. In America, if you can dream it, you should be able to build it.
We'll start by cutting the fees and red tape that make starting a business too complicated and too expensive. It shouldn't be harder to start a business in America than it is in Canada or France. Half of millennials say they're interested in starting a business, and we should be doing everything we can to help more people take that leap - especially Americans traditionally shut out from these opportunities, like women, young people, and people of color. We should bring together local, state, and federal governments to streamline the regulatory process. And let's give up-and-coming entrepreneurs a chance to put their federal student loans into a special status, so you don't face payments or interest when you're getting started. Anyone with a great idea and the drive to see it through should be able to start a business - no matter who you know, who you are, or how much money you have.
We also need to make it easier for small businesses to get financing. I met an ice cream shop owner in Iowa who started his first business at age 15. A local community bank was willing to take a chance on a very young entrepreneur because they had watched his neighborhood bake sales grow over the years. To make more success stories like his possible, my plan will reduce unnecessary regulations on local community banks and credit unions, while defending tough the new rules on big Wall Street banks. And we'll make it a priority to expand access to credit and capital for underserved communities, from inner cities to Coal Country to Indian Country.
While we're at it, let's make filing small business taxes simpler and less expensive. Right now, the smallest businesses spend an average of 150 hours and $1,100 per employee to comply with federal taxes - 20 times as much as larger businesses. We're going to create a new standard deduction for small businesses - like the one currently available to individual filers - to simplify how small business account for overhead costs. I've also put forward a proposal I'm calling "checkbook accounting" that will make filing taxes for small businesses as simple as keeping a checkbook or printing out a bank statement.
Those are just a few of the ideas I'm putting forward to give small businesses a boost. You can read more about my plan on my website. And I hope you will - because this is a real point of contrast in this election.
Tim Kaine and I are both children of small business owners, and we're putting this issue at the heart of our campaign. Compare that to Donald Trump, who's spent a career shortchanging small businesses. He's been involved in more than 4,000 lawsuits in the last 30 years - many with small businesses and contractors who were hired to do work for Trump, and did their jobs, but never got paid what they were owed. Trump stiffed them - not because he couldn't pay, but because he wouldn't pay.
These stories are heartbreaking. When I hear them, I think about my dad. If someone like Trump refused to pay him for a job, I don't know what our family would have done. It goes against every value I learned growing up - about hard work, honor, and having each other's backs.
Our next president should believe in supporting small businesses, not stiffing them.
Donald Trump likes to paint a bleak picture of America. But the small businesses I've visited are proof that our country's best days are still ahead of us. There's Three Daughters Brewing Company in St. Petersburg, Florida, where employees are treated like part of the family. At Mikey Likes It Ice Cream in New York City, the owner is committed to serving delicious food, and giving second chances to those who paid their debts to society by serving time in prison, just like he did. Mojave Electric in Las Vegas, Nevada offers union apprenticeships that let workers earn while they learn. And K'NEX in Hatfield, Pennsylvania makes toys that teach kids STEM skills to help them succeed in the jobs of the future.
Small businesses like these - and so many others - inspire me every day. If I'm fortunate enough to be elected president, they'll be my partners in building an economy that works for everybody, not just those at the top.
Together, we're going to do everything we can to make sure anyone who is willing to work hard can have not only a job that pays well enough to raise a family, but one that makes them excited to get out of bed in the morning - whether it's being their own boss or doing meaningful work that provides dignity, purpose, and room to grow.
So to all of the small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs out there: Let's make sure this is just the beginning of the conversation. I want to keep hearing how we can help you do what you do best: creating good-paying jobs and driving our economy forward.