Small Business: Candidates On the Record

Clues show where these firms stand with presidential hopefuls

On the presidential campaign trail, Sens. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain have all pledged their support for ensuring the vitality of small businesses. But just as they don’t all see eye to eye on how the country should be run, they don’t all stand in agreement on the issues.

With small businesses providing 60% to 80% of new U.S. jobs and employing about 50% of the workforce, their needs prove to be a significant factor necessary to improving the economy. However, the issues that affect small businesses the most—implementing immigration reform, providing universal healthcare, increasing the minimum wage, discouraging bundled government contracts, and sponsoring employer tax cuts—sometimes fall on both sides of the partisan fence.

“What makes America go is business enterprise,” says John Sibley Butler, professor of management and sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. “All of the candidates realize that. You’re not going to find a candidate that says, ‘I’m not going to support small businesses.’ The question is how do they plan to do it? They all have different ways of making it go.”

Small and Disadvantaged Businesses
“In federal contracting, there continues to be a shift of small business contracting away from 8(a) firms and small disadvantaged businesses (SDBs) towards non-minority-owned small businesses, businesses owned by non-minority women, and businesses owned by veterans,” says Thomas D. Boston, professor of economics at Georgia Tech, and author of the book Affirmative Action and Black Entrepreneurship. “Rather than expanding the pie, the federal government has maintained the small business contracting goal of 27%. This means that programs designed to assist minority-owned businesses are competing with other small business programs for a fair share of the designated small business contracting dollars.”

Obama noted recently that the gap between the amounts of venture capital and access to business loans available to minority-owned small businesses compared to other small businesses continues to grow. “Less than 1% of the $250 billion in venture capital dollars invested annually nationwide has been directed to the country’s 4.4 million minority business owners,” Obama states on his Website.

“Historically, Republicans established the federal government’s minority business program. But they have also attacked the affirmative action regulations that are required to keep those programs constitutionally viable,” Boston says. “On the other hand, Democrats have been less focused on providing support for small and minority-owned businesses, but they have supported affirmative action programs that are essential to ensuring the survival of those programs.”

Obama has vowed to strengthen the Small Business Administration programs that provide capital to minority-owned businesses, support outreach programs that help minority business owners apply for loans, and work to encourage the growth and capacity of minority firms. Clinton pledges to make sure that women- and minority-owned small businesses receive their fair share of government contracts, removing obstacles that block many of them from doing business with the federal government. According to a press release, Clinton also plans to raise the current small business allocation for government contracts from 5% to 8%. McCain has been mostly silent on

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