One of my favorite things about American politics in the aftermath of the great recession is the newly acquired obsession with entrepreneurship. If there’s one economic principle both parties seem to suddenly and surprisingly agree on, it’s that the only way out of our economic morass is increasing the number of people starting businesses.
As an entrepreneur myself, I certainly don’t mind my government doing whatever it can to help me. But the level of discourse around the topic, especially in an election year, is almost frightening. Politicians on both sides, most of whom have never started a business, spout nonsense about what will spur us entrepreneurs on.
I’m particularly reminded of how far off the mark they are every time I get something in the mail from my health insurance provider. Or my accountants. Or any of the various government entities that send me things I don’t understand on a weekly basis.
Unfortunately small business has virtually no representation in the Federal government. The movement has been coopted entirely by large corporations who can afford to pay lobbyists. The policies espoused by politicians in order to help boost the small and medium business (SMB) sector of the economy in reality do far more to help the entrenched incumbents we’re trying to overthrow remain at the top.
The things we SMB entrepreneurs really care about are never mentioned. I hear about capital gains taxes all of them time, when most of the entrepreneurs I know probably didn’t even know such a thing existed when they started their first company. Nobody has ever said “I was going to try to start a software company to make $20 million dollars, but now that my tax bill will go from 15% to 20%, I think I’ll just go work at Microsoft.”
I never hear anything about simplifying the ridiculous patchwork of local, state, and federal regulations that waste so much of my time as a business owner. Time that could better be spent working with employees, talking to customers, strategizing, or whatever else is instead spent trying to decipher cryptic health insurance mailings.
Public health care, for all the conservatives hate it, would probably do far more to spur small business than any changes to the top income tax rate. I spend so much time and money dealing with that, and I’d love for nothing better as an entrepreneur to simply have the government provide everyone health insurance and to not have to deal with it myself. I’m leaving aside moral and budgetary issues here of course, and not necessarily endorsing it, but it’d sure as hell be a boon for entrepreneurs.
Patent reform would help a lot too. I’m probably a little more sensitive to this in software than entrepreneurs in most other industries would be. But overly broad patents and litigation thereabouts has created a nuclear winter in the burgeoning mobile sector. I have no doubt that legitimate businesses are not being started due to the ridiculous nature of software patents. It would be impossible to start a company making operating systems for mobile devices, for instance, or devices themselves now. One would need so much money to fight off patent trolls, Apple, etc. both with legal fees and by purchasing defensive patents that companies without billions in the bank can’t even try.
What’s the fix for all of this? I don’t know honestly. I could spend hours ranting about how broken our political system is, but you don’t need me for that. Like most issues I tend to think our broken system of campaign funding and the lobbying it creates makes the problem virtually intractable at the moment. So I don’t expect it to get better.
I’d be happy just to see our politicians stop telling me that what will help me hire more people is keeping the capital gains tax low or upholding or repealing Obamacare. Instead give me the tools I need to run my business when I’m running my business, rather than getting bogged down in accounting issues due to an overly complex tax code, or wasting time dealing with an overly complex health care system, or dealing with an overly complex patchwork of regulations in other areas.