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2008 Presidential Candidates' Potential Impact On Your Business

Written By: Matt Walker
This year, we have seen nearly all Presidential candidates completely ignore issues that deal directly with small business; apparently they feel that focusing on more important issues (i.e., immigration and the war in Iraq) will get them the needed swing votes. However, overlooking the small business owner’s votes could be the nail in the coffin. Small businesses account for more than 50% of the US private sector workforce and more than 70% of the nation’s gross national product. Why wouldn’t candidates cater directly to this powerful group of voters by addressing issues that specifically pertain to small business?

Each Presidential candidate in this year’s race has a unique stance on most issues. While most issues are represented similarly by candidates on the same side of the political line, even the slightest differences can have profound impacts on your business.

Despite a relatively small amount of information from each candidate on small business issues, I’ve compiled some of the major topic areas and I’ve highlighted important areas that could affect your business. Here’s a look at the four major Presidential hopefuls, their stances on some of the major issues affecting small business, and how these decisions can impact your bottom line.


Republicans:

John McCain

• Healthcare – Sen. McCain is proposing incremental expansions of health insurance coverage accompanied by reduced regulations of insurance companies and a more expanded role for Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). He is also proposing an income tax exclusion aimed at providing incentives for individuals to purchase their own insurance; essentially creating a tax credit for anyone purchasing health insurance through an employer.

McCain is also strongly touting a detailed plan based primarily on cost containment and quality of care…performance of the doctors in particular. He has also proposed that small businesses, and those who are self-employed, can purchase medical insurance through qualified associations/organizations.

• Taxes – Similar to most candidates, McCain takes aim at middle income family tax cuts. He is proposing to repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), which is paid nearly exclusively by 25 million middle class families. McCain also specifically addresses entrepreneurial tax cuts claiming that “entrepreneurs should not be taxed into submission.” McCain believes that lower taxes on income and capital gains promotes saving and channeling investment dollars into innovative, high-value uses as opposed to wasteful financial planning. McCain, similar to his Democrat counterparts, is proposing pro-innovation tax cuts, namely a ban on Internet and new cell phone taxes and a permanent R&D tax credit. Read about McCain’s tax cut plan.

• Economic Factors – McCain believes that the barriers to trade should be lowered, thus creating a more globalized mindset when it comes to trade. He wants to reduce the barriers to trade and level the playing field when it comes to global trading rules. McCain wants to increase the competitiveness of the American worker by increasing educational opportunities for all. McCain highly touts energy independence by eliminating our reliance on foreign oil. McCain has outlined a comprehensive energy security plan, which can be found here.

Mike Huckabee

• Healthcare – Gov. Huckabee’s plan, similar to McCain’s, would use tax deductions and credits aimed at encouraging people to buy insurance. He also proposes the expansion of HSAs and incremental adjustments to the healthcare system as opposed to the sweeping, system-wide changes of his Democrat counterparts.

• Taxes – Huckabee is proposing one of the most radical tax related issues of all the candidates; he is proposing to do away with the IRS completely, essentially eliminating the income tax system and replacing it with a national sales tax, or “Fair Tax”, on new goods. This proposal would completely eliminate all income, capital gains, personal federal, corporate federal, gift, estate, alternative minimum, Social Security, Medicare, and self-employment taxes. The only items to be taxed, under this proposal, would be new items that consumers choose to buy. People will no longer be subject to paying taxes on what they earn, rather on what they buy. Read about Huckabee’s tax proposal.

• Economic Factors – Huckabee has stated that his first act as President will be to send Congress a comprehensive plan for energy independence. He vows to achieve energy independence by the end of his second term. While this seems to be putting the cart before the horse, you have to admire his vision. Huckabee also proposes to significantly increase subsidies to farmers in our heartland. He also touts a massive infrastructure investment based on a long-term stimulus plan. Many of these proposals could have profound impacts on small businesses and their ability to receive these proposed subsidies and stimulus contracts.


Democrats:

Hilary Clinton

• Healthcare – She has proposed sweeping changes in the current healthcare system aimed at ensuring coverage for most to all Americans. Her proposal is to require business owners to either contribute to the cost of employee’s coverage or provide ALL of the coverage for employees. She is proposing to exempt small businesses under a certain size (size hasn’t been determined yet) and offer tax credits to those businesses who choose to offer coverage. See Sen. Clinton’s proposed healthcare plan.

• Taxes – Despite being largely silent on the issue of small business taxes, there is some relief for entrepreneurs in a few of Clinton’s proposals mainly in the form of increased spending on entrepreneurial innovation efforts. Clinton proposes much needed tax relief for middle income families, many of whom are small business owners.

• Economic Factors – Clinton is proposing a 9-point plan to significantly increase America’s technology innovation efforts. Her proposed solution is to increase the budgets for many high-tech areas aimed at creating high-wage jobs for more Americans. Read Hillary’s Innovation Agenda . Sen. Clinton has also put together a plan to tackle the energy and climate crisis. This $50 billion dollar strategic energy fund is aimed at creating nearly 5 million clean energy jobs, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80%, cutting oil imports by 2/3, and increasing fuel efficiency standards to 55 mpg. Read about this strategic energy fund.

Barack Obama

• Healthcare – A similar proposal as that of Sen. Clinton in that he is proposing system-wide changes designed for covering most or all Americans. His system, like that of Clinton’s, would offer a pooling function where small businesses can ban together to get affordable health care insurance. Obama is proposing that he would exempt small businesses under 15 employees from this insurance requirement. See Obama’s full healthcare plan.

• Taxes – Obama offers several proposals targeted at small business growth and development, which include the elimination of capital gains taxes on start-up businesses. Some of his biggest tax proposals are aimed at providing a tax cut for working families; he’s calling this the “Making Work Pay” tax credit, which will completely eliminate income taxes for 10 million Americans. Many of those affected by this tax cut are employed by small business, all of whom could see a significant increase in take home pay without affecting the small business bottom line.

• Economic Factors – He is proposing to raise the minimum wage and index it to rise with inflation; this is aimed at ensuring full-time workers can make a livable wage now and ongoing. Obama also has similar plans to those of Clinton’s for increasing innovation and technology jobs. Obama does have some unique proposals including expansions of programs targeting capital to minority and under-served communities and patent reform. He has also called out specific economic help aimed at small businesses in rural areas. Read about Obama’s economic plans.

Regardless of which candidate you ultimately choose to vote for, there’s no doubt that their choices can significantly affect you as a small business owner. Below are links to all of the candidate’s web sites; be sure to read through their stances on issues and make a sound decision that you can feel good about.

Hilary Clinton
Barak Obama
John McCain
Mike Huckabee

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