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Super Tuesday: Keeping Small Business in Check

By Justin Petruccelli
February 6, 2008

In 1992, a struggling economy was the main issue as Bill Clinton unseated George H. W. Bush. Sixteen years later, with Bush’s son in the White House and Clinton’s wife vying to replace him, it’s still "the economy, stupid." So where do this year’s remaining presidential candidates stand on the issues that matter most to small business owners?

The American Small Business League has expressed displeasure with the candidates' perceived lack of attention to small business issues. However, although the candidates may not directly address small businesses, their stances on health care and tax reform could affect small business in the future.

Both Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama favor a general overhaul of the healthcare system that would move toward coverage for all Americans. They would do so by requiring all businesses to either provide medical insurance or chip in for its cost. Clinton hasn't specified what sized company qualifies as a small business, but would give tax incentives for businesses that provide coverage. Obama has defined a small business as one with 15 or fewer employees and also favors an exemption.

On the Republican side, common threads include tax incentives and deregulation of insurance companies. Sen. John McCain proposed policies that would control health-care costs and provide assistance for the self-employed. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s proposed policies would provide block grants to individual states so that each could provide market-based medical coverage.

Of course, no discussion of business and politics would be complete without taxes. Most of the noise on this issue has been made by the GOP candidates. Romney favors lower taxes across the board, including the elimination of estate tax as well as those on capital gains, interest and dividends. McCain opposed both the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts but then voted to extend them through 2010. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, whose wins in the South have him hanging on for now, wants to dissolve the IRS altogether and go to a national sales tax system on all new retail goods.