After weeks of heated debate, Congress and the White House have finally reached a debt deal to save the United States from defaulting. But according to experts, the deal—and the political bickering that came with it—will do little to help small businesses.
The deal, which is still making its way through Congress after an eleventh hour push from party bigs, has three main components: It immediately raises the debt ceiling, includes around $2.1 trillion in spending cuts over the next 10 years, and creates a special Congressional committee to come up with long term deficit-reduction suggestions by this Thanksgiving.
"This is not the deal that we have wanted to see," says John Arensmeyer, CEO of Small Business Majority, an advocacy group. "It's good only because it prevents a catastrophic default, but they missed a big opportunity here to really make some reforms that could benefit small businesses and everyone else."
President Barack Obama first revealed the deal in a televised address Sunday night, but it immediately received an onslaught of criticism from both sides for not doing enough to ensure long-term recovery. As Senator Harry Reid said to the Senate Monday: "People on the right are upset. People on the left are upset. People in the middle are upset." The House passed the bill Monday evening, the Senate votes today, and then the president is expected to sign it before the midnight deadline.
Missing from the deal is the hot-button issue of tax reform. Earlier this summer, President Obama made limiting tax breaks for the wealthy and closing corporate tax loopholes a part of his deficit-reduction plan, though he was unable to rally support from staunch no-tax Republicans as the deadline approached.
The new deal essentially shelves the issue, leaving it up for debate sometime down the road, possibly by the special Congressional committee. Arensmeyer says that reforming taxes could have helped small businesses long term.
"We are a nonpartisan group, but small businesses just don't benefit at all from tax breaks on in the upper bracket, and they don't benefit from large corporate loop holes," says Arensmeyer, adding that not addressing this now just means Washington will have to deal with it later.
Wayne Rivers, president of consulting firm The Family Business Institute, echoes that the deal doesn't do much to help smaller businesses, and says it has only heightened frustrations among already strained owners.
"I've got clients that have been cutting and cutting and cutting since 2008. They've made the hard decisions," he says. "And they see what's going on with this deal and say 'Why can't Washington get this right?'"
Rivers adds that the proposed deal is also problematic because it lacks direction.
"There's no clear path there. Each side is so far apart and it shows in the deal. It just doesn't indicate a way to long term recovery," he says, adding that this will make it harder for even the most frugal family businesses to stay afloat.
But Charles Green, small business consultant and author of The SBA Loan Book, says that the months of uncertainty and last few weeks of political grandstanding may have already done damage to the immediate future of small businesses.
"Most small businesses buy from and sell to larger businesses," he says. "And big businesses make plans months in advance based on what's going on in the present and what they think will happen. So they've already made decisions about production levels, prices, etcetera for the near future. The smaller businesses will feel the ripple effect."