An unfamiliar face to most voters before Saturday, Paul Ryan now finds himself smack in the middle of the national spotlight and directly under the political microscope.
Washington onlookers have spent the better part of three days sifting through his personal and political past, examining his voting record and public statements, evaluating whether he can help Mitt Romney win over key voting blocks like the conservative base, young voters and those in his home state of Wisconsin.
Here’s a look at where the Republican vice presidential candidate stands on the issues that matter most to small business owners.
On the overall tax code:
Ryan is best known for his latest budget proposal, dubbed the “Path to Prosperity,” which would simplify the nation’s tax code by creating just two individual rates (down from the current six) of 10 percent and 25 percent. The plan would also bring the corporate rate down from 35 percent to 25 percent.
Chairman of the House Budget Committee, Ryan wrote that he would counter lost government revenue (all $2 trillion of it, compared to the President Obama’s plan) by closing tax loopholes; however, he hasn’t specified which ones — important details given that breaks on investment and mortgage taxes could be on the table.
“The President’s vision of higher tax rates for small businesses and more complexity in the tax code would exacerbate the problems with the current code and lead to economic decline,” Ryan wrote in the budget, suggesting that many business owners would be among those paying higher rates under the Democratic plan.
An analysis of Ryan’s proposal by the Tax Policy Center suggested it would give a $265,000 tax break on average to Americans earning more than $1 million each year. Small business advocates and economists have come down on both sides of the resulting debate, some arguing that continued tax relief for the wealthy would promote hiring and investments by business owners, while others say such breaks should be reserved for low-income earners and the middle class.
On capital gains:
Ryan has long pushed for lower capital gains and dividend taxes, which could prompt more investment activity and help business owners secure the financing they need to get off the ground or expand their companies. His 2013 budget would eliminate taxes on corporate income, estates, dividends, interest and capital gains.
In years past, Ryan twice attempted to lower the capital gains rate from 20 percent to 15 percent before President Bush did it himself in 2003, and a year later, the congressman introduced a bill that would have made those cuts permanent.
On small business lending:
Back in June 2010, Ryan voted against the Small Business Jobs Act, which later passed through Congress and was eventually signed into law by President Obama. The measure vastly expanded the Small Business Administration’s lending powers, introduced a handful of targeted tax cuts and created additional contracting opportunities for small firms.
But the congressman has at least twice supported bills that provided incentives for companies to invest in new equipment — first voting for the American Jobs Creation Act in 2004 and later supporting the Bush stimulus bill in 2008.
Not surprisingly, Ryan wants to strip away many of the regulatory hurdles Republicans believe are crippling businesses across the country. For example, his budget includes provisions that would overhaul the rules governing health care and energy companies.
“The free enterprise system is being stifled by a federal bureaucracy fixated on depriving citizens and businesses of their ability to make social and economic decisions according to what is best for their own needs and interests,” he wrote in the budget.
The Pathway to Prosperity plan would curb the automatic defense cuts scheduled to take effect next year. While rolling back those cuts would make a balanced budget all the more allusive, any agreement to avoid sequestration would be good news for the small contractors who provide products and services to those enormous arms of the federal government.
However, Ryan also wants to cap overall spending as a percentage of the size of the economy, which doesn’t necessarily bode well for contractors of any size in the years ahead.
On health-care reform:
The Ryan budget would strike down President Obama’s health-care law altogether; but after dozens of failed attempts already by House Republicans, there’s little hope for a full-blown repeal. Either way, small business owners and entrepreneurs have been fairly split in response to the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the law, so Ryan’s stance isn’t likely to sway his standing on Main Street.
Republicans point out that Ryan did pitch his own health-care reform proposal in 2009, which would have created state-level exchanges but did not include individual or employer mandates.
Ryan eventually came out against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), an anti-piracy measure panned by nearly everyone in the start-up and technology communities — but his stance didn’t come without a little drama. Entrepreneur reports that a grassroots movement headed by social news platform Reddit led him to publicly denounce the bill, and Ryan still considers online piracy a major problem.
The Wisconsin native has also supported the notion of open government but voted against legislation mandating net neutrality for Internet companies.
On the Federal Reserve:
Ryan four years ago introduced a measure that would no longer hold the Federal Reserve accountable for lowering the national unemployment rate; instead, under the proposal, the central bank’s core mission would be to promote economic prosperity by stabilizing prices.
In more than a decade in office, Ryan has only seen two of his bills pass into law, according to the Huffington Post. One renamed a post office in his district, while the other changed the tax rules for arrow manufacturers, reportedly putting American archery suppliers on an even playing field with foreign competitors.
So if your business peddles to archery enthusiasts, Ryan may just be the best thing to come along this year.
Well, perhaps second best.
Have your own thoughts on Paul Ryan? Do you think his policies support small businesses? Please share your take in the comments below.