A friend of mine asked me to share my opinion on where the current presidential candidates stand on entrepreneurship. It struck me that despite the 24/7 political coverage, there is surprisingly little information to be had on this topic.
True, there is some campaign talk on topics entrepreneurs should care about such as lower taxes, less regulation or immigration reform. There are plenty of red meat issues being provided by both sides of the political spectrum that are emotive and many of them are expressed through a prism of business and entrepreneurship. For example, references to “job-killing regulations,” or universal college education to create an educated work force are uttered often by politicians campaigning for a job in the White House.
Even though those issues definitely relate to an entrepreneur’s life — taking a stance on them is very different from creating policies that support and reward risk-taking, small business formation and entrepreneurship.
This matters because most job creation in our economy comes from entrepreneurs starting new businesses. It matters because the commercialization and growth of new industries is often led by small businesses that grow rapidly. In fact, 20 percent of our nation’s economy is currently made up of small technology businesses that have grown into established companies.
Public interest groups support different agendas but where is the lobby that speaks for entrepreneurs? Or are we just being used as a stalking horse for other groups seeking to gain influence?
These are the policies and approaches I care most about as an entrepreneur, yet have not heard on the campaign trail:
• The federal government should pass a budget every year, so that my government customer has some predictability as to what can be spent — that way, I know whether my business has a viable customer.
• While we’re at it, how about a budget that will eventually balance? I don’t care if we raise taxes, or cut them — I just want government to pay for itself over time.
• Let’s do something about the contrast between market regulation genuinely promoting fair and open competition for smaller businesses — and the regulation only there to achieve a narrow social goal.
• Government should appreciate the difference between an inflationary spiral and a deflationary spiral, and adopt policies to combat each.
• Our banking system should provide a better connection between banks and local businesses.
• Cuts in government spending and tax subsidies provided to special interests should be evaluated the same way, and given the same level of scrutiny.
• Government should address health care in an intelligent way, instead of using it as a political football.
• Our tax system should reward business owners who take bigger risks than people who manage hedge funds.
• We should have a transportation system that facilitates our morning commutes and not one that is an embarrassment when compared to other nations.
• We need an intelligent discussion on the balance between privacy and security — one that weighs the realities of risk against the magnitude of the privacy we are being asked to forfeit.
I am sure that both progressive and conservative entrepreneurs have a similar wish list.
Every day, government shapes our entrepreneurial climate as we find customers and satisfy their needs. We are here to serve our clients, whatever the rules and conditions created by our politicians.
We as entrepreneurs are economically important, yet our politicians don’t seem to give us the same consideration we give our customers. We are out getting things done, keeping the wheels of small business in motion, and listening to our clients.
When people suggest government should be run more like a business, in this case, I wholeheartedly agree.
Jonathan Aberman is a business owner, entrepreneur and founder of Tandem NSI, an Arlington-based organization that seeks to connect innovators to government agencies. He is host of “Forward Thinking Radio” on SiriusXM, a business and policy program, and lectures at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.