Small-business owners stand up for voice in political debate

Andrea Servadio
In this photo taken Friday, Dec. 7, 2012, Andrea Servadio, founder and owner of Fitdog, poses for a photo at her doggy daycare in Santa Monica, Calif.
Damian Dovarganes/AP

The story of the small-business owner was heavily used during the 2012 presidential election to highlight the future of America's economy. But outside the political rhetoric, some small business owners are trying to reclaim their identity.

The Nation profiled "The new left: Small business owners" in a recent issue:

Roughly half of small-business people are Republicans, only a third or so identify themselves as Democrats, and some certainly fit the old stereotype. The GOP idolizes business folks as free-market, small-government conservatives. On the left, they are frequently dismissed as small-minded right-wingers.

But if you listen to them more closely, you will hear jarring expressions of distinctly liberal opinions. And they express salty disgust for the US Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business, which claim to speak for the little guys on Main Street. Actually, these little guys accuse the US Chamber and the NFIB of identity theft.

The American Sustainable Business Council was created four years ago with a mission to give small-business owners a voice in politics.

"Many of the current policies that seem to be pro-business really aren't," said David Brodwin, co-founder and director of media and communications for ASBC in The Nation. "We prop up old industries that have strong political connections but are no longer the leading edge of creating a vibrant economy. Big agriculture and fossil fuels are the main examples. Farm subsidies go back to the 1930s, when there actually were family farms. Our energy policy goes back to the 1920s. We have never revisited those decisions, and that's just terrible for the economy. Many businesses, particularly small businesses, understand that is not good for America and not good for them, but they are drowned out by the orchestrated campaign that's funded by mostly large companies and mostly old-line companies."

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In order for small business owners to be successful, America needs to focus on giving serious entrepreneurs access to smart loans and debt they can pay back, wrote Nick Friedman on The Huffington Post.

"If politicians want to foster economic growth and boost the small business community, there needs to be a change in dialogue," he wrote. "In this era of renewed interest in entrepreneurship, our nation's leader must present American's with the opportunity [re]capture a stake in 'the American dream'--that is, for Americans to control their own destinies and have a chance at real success."

LEARN MORE ABOUT SMALL BUSINESSES:

Survey ranks most (and least) small business-friendly states, cities
"A new survey of nearly 8,000 small businesses throughout the country rates business climates of states and metro areas, providing clues to what these economic engines view as top concerns." (Governing)

Small vs. big, local vs. global
"Scientific measures of public attitudes toward business are hard to come by. But a survey conducted in 2010 by the Pew Research Center for the People survey found that 71 percent of Americans believed small business was a positive influence on the way things are going in the country, far higher than the 25 percent who believed the same of large corporations." (New York Times)

Small businesses still struggle, and that's impeding a recovery
"In the recovery so far, small businesses have largely been left behind. Initially, loans were hard to come by and consumers weren't shopping. Now, small-business owners say, Washington is throwing up additional roadblocks." (New York Times)

As online sales tax passes Senate, what's the word on Main Street?
"Small Business Majority Chief Executive Officer John Arensmeyer says his group backs the bill: "We know from all the research we've done--not on this issue, but in general--that one of the fundamental things that small business owners believe in is a level playing field." (Businessweek)