So far the 2016 election campaign has been about a lot of things — immigration, treatment of Gold Star families, tax returns, emails and email hacks.
But one thing it has not been about is enabling the real people who make America great, our more than 3 million small business owners.
You get the feeling that GOP candidate Donald Trump has made a lot of money off his image but that he can’t manage his way out of a paper bag. He talks about employing contractors on his construction sites and helping his family get ready to take over his business empire.
But he got his start by inheriting his dad’s successful real estate business and it’s not really clear whether he can actually put aside his personal interests to run the government.
His six bankruptcies left behind a trail of unpaid subcontractors – that’s not a great way to endear yourself to hard-working entrepreneurs who have to meet a payroll on the 15th and the 31st. And then there is the matter of his taxreturns — I’m in agreement with Warren Buffett that they will be quite revealing.
Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton has a long resume but it’s been decades since she signed the front of a paycheck as managing partner at an Arkansas law firm.
A look through her platform contains a few useful ideas — chief among them, a review of regulations that get in the way of starting a small business.
And she says she wants to create some standards to make sure small vendors get paid on time by big contractors — perhaps a dig at her opponent’s reputation for playing hard ball when it came time to pay up.
But this has not been a campaign about how to really help small businesses and Main Street entrepreneurs add jobs and grow the economy at a faster pace.
To the extent that business issues have been involved at all, it’s been billionaires with money to spend on special issues such as global warming — think the Koch Brothers versus Tom Steyer.
Silicon Valley venture capitalists and Wall Street types continue to have a big influence, thanks in part to the Citizens United decision that keeps dark money flowing into a political system that keeps the tax system biased in favor of hedge funds and private equity types and away from hard working business owners.
You can see the massive inequality that’s crept into our system right here in the Tri-Counties. Wealthy enclaves that can adapt to the venture capital/tech model and that demand a lot of health care and business services are doing well — think Santa Barbara, Thousand Oaks and San Luis Obispo.
Communities that depend on traditional businesses such as manufacturing, distribution and smaller companies continue to struggle — think Oxnard and West Ventura County or the Santa Maria Valley. In between are Santa Ynez, Paso Robles and Ojai, which have some elements of both worlds.
A real platform to grow the economy and jobs would begin with a tax overhaul that removes some of the huge tax breaks for Wall Street types and shores up entitlements. Yes, most small business owners and their employees will still need a healthy Social Security system in order to enjoy retirement.
Another idea would be to provide more flexibility in minimum wage hikes, particularly as we get closer to the $15 per hour mark. That way young people could get exposed to work and people re-entering the workforce after a layoff or retirement can earn some incremental income.
A third idea would be to reduce the paperwork burdens for small business owners who want to buy a house or use home equity to start a small business. Since the housing bubble and the financial crisis, home ownership has become a lot more complex and the ability to use home equity to start a business has been shut tight for many folks.
The future of small business in our region, our state and beyond has been on my mind this week because on Aug. 19 the Business Times will honor the region’s entrepreneurs at our 14th annual Small Business Awards luncheon.
Small businesses need a voice more than ever. I hope you can join us.
• Reach Editor Henry Dubroff at [email protected]