Small-Business Groups Give Obama's First 100 Days Mixed Review
By Kelly Spors
Wall Street Journal
April 29, 2009
Many small-business owners and the groups that represent them were initially leery about Barack Obama’s presidency and how he would help them. How do they feel 100 days into it? Did he dash, meet or exceed expectations when it comes to helping small-business owners in this bleak economy?
Since taking office, President Obama introduced several initiatives or proposals with direct or indirect effects on small businesses, ranging from funneling stimulus money into Small Business Administration loan programs, pushing health-care reform, funding alternative energy and job creation projects and prodding banks to unfreeze credit. Of course, businesses may also benefit from the massive stimulus package by winning government contracts and the expected business it will spur.
A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows the new president is broadly popular among the American populace, and has so far produced an upswing in national confidence.
Still, many business advocacy groups – which tend to lean Republican – aren’t nearly as impressed. They feel the new president has burdened them with extra regulations, such as requiring they extend COBRA benefits, without providing financial relief such as tax breaks. “Unfortunately, small business owners largely believe that Washington just keeps cranking out more ways to abscond their limited time, capital and resources,” says Karen Kerrigan, executive director of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council, a lobby group, in a news release. “We hope that in the next 100 days and beyond, President Obama will turn to entrepreneurs for ideas that will reduce their government-imposed costs and burdens, solutions that will help them maintain and grow their workforce, and options for providing affordable health coverage.”
Other groups with more focused agendas also don’t feel he’s done enough to help small firms. Lloyd Chapman, The American Small Business League, a group that follows small-business contracting, says President Obama reneged on his campaign-trail promise to ensure small businesses win their share of government contracts.”You have come out with numerous small business rescue plans and stimulus plans, and yet today small businesses in all 50 states are still having to compete with “corporate giants” for even the most minuscule government small business contracts for goods and services,” Mr. Chapman wrote to Mr. Obama on ExceptionMag.com.
Yet, others are more tempered in their reviews, even complimentary. Todd McCracken, president of the National Small Business Association said in a phone interview this morning that he’s happy President Obama has put unionization “card-check” reform on the backburner and pushed credit-card reform and reviving SBA lending to the forefront. Mr. McCracken would have liked to have seen the SBA administrator elevated to a cabinet post, which hasn’t happened. The big test in his mind, however, is yet to come: Whether President Obama can push through health-care reform that’s agreeable to business owners. NSBA wants reform that mandates that individuals buy health coverage but that doesn’t mandate that employers buy it. “I think all in all he has shown that he’s willing to be pragmatic,” Mr. McCracken says. “He sees that small business is really good for the economy… I think we’ve actually seen a growing realization of this over the last 100 days.”