For President Reagan, January is the month to report -- on the State of the Union, on the economy, and this year, for the first time, on small business and competition.
By January 20, the President is to give Congress a document that will:
* Examine the economic role of small business, industry by industry.
* Detail current and historical data on small business production, employment, and investment.
Identify economic trends affecting small business and competition.
* Examine the effects on small business and competition of government policies and programs, including the tax code and securities and pension laws, and then propose legislative and administrative ways to aid small business.
Government officials charged with drafting the report have been hampered by a lack of statistical data on which to base their findings (see Speaking Out, December 1981). Much of what is available in government files is not easily usable. Published bankruptcy statistics, for example, don't reflect company size. "The data is there," says Thomas Gray, an official with the Small Business Administration, "but it's never been broken down."
The SBA's Office of Advocacy has started building a small business data base, but, according to Gray, much of that information is so new that the agency cannot in some cases identify trends over time. Gray is hopeful, however, that the SBA can put together "enough data so that the President won't be embarrassed."
Meanwhile, don't look for startling findings or bold recommendations from the Reagan report. The first draft will be prepared by the SBA's Office of Advocacy and will be "far to the middle of what we'd usually write as small business advocates," Gray says. Cabinet-level departments and the Office of Management and Budget will review the draft and the Council of Economic Advisors will then make further revisions. Whatever ends up in the final report, says a CEA official, just the fact that the President must comment on the state of small business and competition should upgrade White House interest in the field.