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Posted at 09:09 AM ET, 07/26/2012

The Morning Plum: Which candidate would be better for small businesses?

In the big battle between Obama and Mitt Romney over whether the President demeaned small business people with his “didn’t build that” comment, one question has been oddly missing: Which candidate’s policies would be better for small business people?

In the read of the morning, Bill Turque took a first step towards answering that question, with the focus mainly on Obama’s policies:

Small-business leaders say Obama’s record is mixed. Todd McCracken, president of the National Small Business Association, said that for some small firms, the administration has been a boon. For businesses that export, for example, McCracken said that reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank Act will help ensure a level playing field. He also described his 65,000 member companies as being “quite comfortable” with the individual insurance mandate at the heart of the Affordable Care Act. The one-year extension of the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for incomes under $250,000 is also a plus, he said.
But McCracken said Obama has not been aggressive enough in compelling banks to loosen lending policies. And in many instances, he said, tax relief is secondary to the regulatory burdens that leave many small businesses uncertain.

The GOP argument is that Obama’s push to reinstate Clinton era tax rates on income over $250,000 will cripple small businesses, and that Obama’s regulatory policies are smothering them. And in the GOP’s favor, a new Gallup poll finds that 59 percent of business owners disapprove of Obama, though it’s unclear whether that reflects dissatisfaction with the economy alone or with Obama’s tax and regulatory policies.

But if McCracken is to be believed, small businesses are pleased with the push for continued tax cuts on incomes just under $250,000 and don’t see Obamacare — which is supposed to be Obama’s most flagrant regulatory overreach — as a serious problem.

As I’ve been saying, Romney is selling a narrative that goes further than the policy differences between the two men. He wants you to believe that Obama’s deep seated hostility towards individual initiative and American free enterprise are also holding back the recovery, another reason we need to replace him with someone who wants people to succeed. This serves Romney’s political goal of giving voters an easy-to-grasp explanation for what ails us — one that takes the focus off the question of whether Romney’s ideas would actually fix the crisis and keeps it on Obama.

But it would be interesting to see more reporting on what small business people think of Romney’s policies and on what they think of the two candidates’ respective visions for the economy and future. As Jonathan Cohn notes, Romney has completely broken with mainstream economic consensus on what’s really plaguing us and on the question of whether government action can spur recovery. Do small business people really share Romney’s scorn for Obama’s push for more stimulus spending? More broadly, do they share Romney’s scorn for Obama’s push for more investment in education and in the nation’s infrastructure? Might be a good new angle on this story.

* More on Romney and offshoring: ABC News scoops that some of the paraphenalia for the 2002 Olympics Romney ran was manufactured overseas, including a piece of 9/11 memorabilia bearing the words “United We Stand.” ABC also digs up this 2002 quote from Romney about material the Olympics used from China:

“It’s extraordinary, “but it’s cheaper to get it from China.”

Relatedly, Americans United for Change is out with a new Web video hitting Romney for raising money from lobbyists and executives from banks and hedge funds in London, some of whom are caught up in the Libor rate-fixing scandal — and tying the fundraising to Romney’s pledge to repeal Wall Street reform. The hint that Romney is doing the bidding of some kind of international elite he belongs to is unmistakable.

* Republicans likely to hold House majority: Jennifer Steinhauser has an overview of the House map and why it is shifting to favor Republicans keeping control. In a nutshell:

More Democrats than Republicans have retired in districts where they were endangered, and more Republicans benefited from the decennial redistricting, leaving the Democrats with too small a cushion of Teflon incumbents as they try to regain a majority in the House. Of the 80 races viewed as most competitive by The New York Times, based on polls and interviews with independent analysts, 32 are leaning Republican, 23 are leaning Democratic and 25 are tossups.

The question is whether the Paul Ryan budget, the House GOP’s expected vote against extending middle class tax cuts, and Tea Party-induced governmental paralysis will give Dems enough of a lift, given that they belong to the incumbent presidents’ party in a bad economy.

* House Republicans set to sink Dems’ tax cut plan: A brutal New York Times editorial on yesterday’s Senate vote on the plan to continue the Bush tax cuts on incomes up to $250,000, which almost all Senate Repubicans voted against, just as House Republicans are expected to do next week:

The real reason the bill will die in the House is that it is not sufficiently generous to the only income group that Republicans seem to care about.

To reiterate: Republicans oppose the Dem plan because it does not keep tax rates lower only on income above $250,000 that is earned by one out of 50 taxpayers.

* Romney’s amnesia on defense cuts: Great column by Dana Milbank skewering Romney’s effort to blame Obama for the sequestered defense cuts, when in fact Republicans voted for that sequester in setting up the deficit supercommittee. As Milbank notes, the supercommittee failed to reach a deal largely because Republicans couldn’t accept more revenues from the rich; preventing that is even more important to them than defense spending.

* Romney’s “name calling” foreign policy: A nice take by Andrew Rosenthal on how Obama’s aggressive foreign policies have left no room to his right for Romney other than “bellicose rhetoric and name calling.” The bad news here is that the downside to Obama’s foreign policies — on civil liberties, drones, the “kill list” — have shifted the entire debate on these issues to the right, to the degree that there’s even a debate about them at all.

* Romney struggling to articulate foreign policy critique: Also see Fareed Zakaria’s piece noting that Obama is the first Democrat in decades to hold a decisive advantage on these issues, that Republican insiders think Romney is “strangely amateurish on them, and that the gap on them will only grow wider if Romney doesn’t come up with something better.

Prediction: given Romney’s struggles in this area, the foreign policy debate between Obama and Romney this fall will loom large.

* A step in the right direction on guns? Per the First Read crew, Obama said this yesterday:

“I think a lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals; that they belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities.”

Obama didn’t speak up for the policy that could actually help solve this problem — an assault weapons ban — but he did articulate this as a goal, which is a step forward. More on this later.

* Romney on the Colorado shooting: Great catch by Steve Benen here; Romney had this to say about the Colorado shooting: “this person shouldn’t have had any kind of weapons and bombs and other devices and it was illegal for him to have many of those things already. But he had them.” He purchased the guns legally.

* And Dems accept defeat in gun fight: A good E.J. Dionne column raging at Dems and the left for surrendering in the fight over guns, and noting that “gun rights” advocates have been allowed to triumph with an absurd argument:

We’re told that no laws will end all human tragedies. That’s true. And if the standard for a useful law is that it must put an end to all tragedies and solve all problems, there is no point in passing any laws at all.

What else?

By  |  09:09 AM ET, 07/26/2012

 
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