The tremendously hyped Trump-Hillary debate was disappointing in that it did not cover any topic in very much depth. America wanted to hear more about Donald Trump's tax payments, the closure of his casino properties, his alleged fraud involving Trump University and how he intends Mexico to pay for "the wall." Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton's medical condition, deleted emails, her actions in Benghazi, and the transparency of the Clinton Foundation received little to no air time.
From my perspective, there simply was not enough discussion of the economy and issues relating to small business. Trump says that he would scrap Obamacare, which is very costly to small business owners, but doesn't give details on how he would replace it. Small business owners are also interested in work rules regarding overtime and the movement to increase minimum wage to $15 an hour, an issue of great concern to enterprises in states such as New York and New Jersey, which have pushed legislation to raise the minimum wage.
Nor did the nominees discuss access to capital, which is the life blood to small business growth. Neither candidate spoke about financing options, funding programs in under-served communities or the importance of immigrant entrepreneurs in the creation of small businesses. Given the attention that Donald Trump has put on immigration issues, it's an important topic that basically was ignored in the debate. This is in stark contrast to the attention to 2008, when Joe the Plumber gained national attention by challenging then candidate Barack Obama on small business tax policies, and 2012 when President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney put much emphasis on small business.
While Trump talks mostly about his success in business as a real estate developer, he spends little time talking about small business growth and does not even devote a section of his web site on small business. In contrast, Hillary highlights her dad's printing business -- at which he printed drapery fabrics in Chicago.
"It put food on the table; it gave us a good, solid, middle-class home and lifestyle," Hillary posts. "I don't think it's old-fashioned to say that's what I want for every family that wants to work for that here in our country today." Her website also highlights a speech she gave in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 2015. "I want to be a Small Business President," A president who does make it easier to start and run a small business in this country, so it seems less like a gamble and more like an opportunity. We have to level the playing field for our small businesses."
Hillary lists the following points on how a Clinton Administration would make it easier to start and grow a small business in America by:
- Unlocking access to capital: giving small companies -- including women- and minority-owned small businesses -- access to the financing they need to build, grow, and hire. Hillary says she would work to boost small-business lending by easing burdens for community banks and credit unions. She also would enable entrepreneurs to defer student-loan payments with no interest while they launch their ventures.
- Cutting red tape to streamline the process of starting a small business. Hillary says, "It shouldn't take longer to start a small business in the United States than it does in Canada or Denmark" and would offer state and local governments federal incentives to cut red tape and streamline unnecessary and costly licensing rules.
- Providing tax relief and simplification. Companies with one to five employees -- spend 150 hours and $1,100 per employee to comply with federal tax laws. (That's more than 20 times higher than the average for larger firms.) Hillary says she would create a new standard deduction for small businesses and simplify the rules so companies can track and file their taxes easily. She would also quadruple the start-up tax deduction to lower the cost of starting a business.
- Incentivize health care benefits for small businesses and their employees. Hillary says she would expand the health care tax credit for firms with up to 50 employees through the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) and simplify complex eligibility rules so that it's easier for many more small businesses to get the credit and cover their workers.
- Opening new markets. Hillary supports investing in the roads, bridges, and ports that make it easier for companies to reach new markets, including international ones.
- Making sure small businesses get paid, not stiffed. Hillary says she would stop large companies from using expensive litigation as hurdles to deny small businesses payment for services and she'll give small businesses recourse to take on predatory behavior.
- Supporting small-business owners and entrepreneurs. Hillary supports incubators, mentoring, and training for aspiring entrepreneurs in under-served communities.
- Make the federal government more responsive to small business. Hillary would push federal agencies to make government more user-friendly and guarantee a 24-hour response time to small businesses owners' questions about federal regulations and access to capital programs.
Whether these objectives are actionable and come to fruition in a future Clinton administration depends on the outcome of the election obviously. What is striking is the robust amount of information on the Democratic nominee's online platform while Trump, the billionaire businessman, does not spell out his ideas for small business on his website at all.
The next debate between the two nominees will take place in October. Former President Bill Clinton's famous election theme in 1992 was: "It's the economy, stupid." In subsequent Presidential elections, small business took center stage. Trump and Hillary should make small business more of a priority.