Lawmakers’ Sleight-of-Hand Tricks Threaten Small Businesses

John Arensmeyer

John Arensmeyer

Small business owners are a pragmatic group. They’re interested in the bottom line, both literally and figuratively, and when it comes to legislation, they want to know what a particular law means to their cash flow. And they want to hear about it in plain English, without florid prose and windy pronouncements.

Unfortunately, there are some lawmakers in Washington, D.C. who are making grandiose claims that they’re helping small businesses, when actually they’re using showy rhetoric to hide their attacks on small businesses to further their ideological agendas. And the bottom line is it’s got to stop.

The Senate has an opportunity to reauthorize the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program — a program that provides critical investments in America’s small businesses and gives taxpayers a great return on those investments through job growth and economic expansion. Yet an amendment has been added to the SBIR legislation that, if passed, would halt implementation of the new healthcare law. Because of the amendment, there’s a fight brewing that puts the passage of the entire SBIR in jeopardy.

So in their attempts to derail the Affordable Care Act, which has tremendous benefits for small businesses, these lawmakers are threatening the SBIR program, another crucial part of entrepreneurs’ continued success. What this boils down to is that lawmakers are trying to have their cake and eat it, too.

Unfortunately, small businesses are being left with nothing but the crumbs.

If we stopped implementing provisions of the Affordable Care Act, small businesses would pay a hefty price. We commissioned a study by MIT economist Jonathan Gruber that found that without reform, small businesses would pay nearly $2.4 trillion in healthcare costs by 2018. The report went on to find that 178,000 small business jobs and $52.1 billion in small business profits would also disappear because of these costs. It doesn’t take a degree from MIT to understand that these numbers are too costly for small businesses.

We know from our research that the ACA is already helping small businesses. Nearly 84 percent of small businesses nationwide are eligible this year for a tax credit on their 2010 tax returns. Sharon Whalen, the publisher of a weekly newspaper in Springfield, Ill. has already seen tangible benefits. Sharon employs 10 people, yet like many other small business owners, she’s paid a pretty penny for coverage. The tax credits put an extra $2,700 back in her pocket this year to offset her costs. This helps her maintain coverage so she can continue to recruit top talent. And her story is just one of many. If we stop implementing the ACA, these tax credits will disappear, along with a host of other benefits that are giving small businesses relief from high healthcare costs.

Hindering the implementation of healthcare reform is bad for small business. Trying to accomplish that by tacking on an amendment to another piece of much-needed legislation, and delaying it in the process, is even worse. But claiming it’s being done for the sake of small business is a new low.

In a time when our entrepreneurs and our economy need help more than ever, lawmakers should drop the rhetoric and start focusing on small businesses’ bottom lines — instead of on their narrow ideological agendas.

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