Friday, August 20, 2010
Small Businesses Can Be Leaders In Changing Washington
By Janet Cronick
Tomorrow, I and other women business owners from the Southern California area will gather at the Anaheim Sheraton Park Hotel to discuss the challenges we face, and the issues that impact our businesses’ bottom line. Government spending and our nation’s fiscal crisis played a big role in this discussion.

Daily, troubling economic news has left anxious Americans wondering if the worst of the economic crisis is truly behind us.  All Americans have been effected by the financial crisis and ensuing recession, but small business owners have faced particularly tough challenges.  Unfortunately, counter-productive policy and the government's fiscal recklessness have only added to the problems..

The collapse of the housing market destroyed the assets of millions of Americans. With less savings, consumers reduced their spending, which affected the bottom lines of businesses everywhere.  Employers that planned to expand instead laid off valued employees.  Companies and would-be entrepreneurs today find it difficult to obtain loans from a skittish financial sector. 
Companies have been doing more with less as a result of these hard economic times.  Families also have been cutting back.  In contrast, our federal government has been on an unprecedented spending spree with our tax dollars, and the future tax dollars of our children and grandchildren. 

This year alone, the federal government will add $1.5 trillion to the national debt.  While politicians try to justify this borrowing as necessary to bolster the economy, Americans know all to well that too many of our tax dollars are simply being wasted.  Senators John McCain and Tom Coburn recently published a disturbing report highlighting 100 of the most wasteful projects funded by the so-called “economic stimulus” bill.  The examples are jaw dropping: $89,298 for a new sidewalk leading to a ditch; $554,763 for new windows for a closed-down building. 

Such waste is infuriating, but it isn't unexpected.  This is the way that Washington has run for decades.  Policymakers on both sides of the aisle have grown accustomed to using taxpayer money as if it was Monopoly money, to be distributed to favored constituents and interest groups, for projects that would never receive support from the private sector.    Many leaders in Washington have found it more politically expedient to run up debt, while ignoring warning signs about the long-term consequences of their fiscal recklessness.  

The consequences of this profligacy are catching up with us quickly. Our national debt is currently $13.3 trillion, which is equivalent to more than 90 percent of our gross domestic product.

Economists warn that countries with debt in excess of 90 percent of GDP retard their economic growth.  The United States has already surpassed that threshold.  How much worse might our economic problem be down the road?  

And far from reining in spending, just last week Washington passed yet another round of bailouts – this time, $26 billion for states still mired in their own fiscal messes.
As a nation, we must ask ourselves: how can we reverse course so our economy won't drown in a tidal wave of debt? 

The answer is simple: the American people must demand those we elect to Congress make getting the nation’s fiscal house in order. We must hold them accountable. Small business owners have enough problems without the confidence-crushing uncertainty that is coming out of Washington. Elected officials must commit to focusing on this bigger picture of our overall economic health.  Terry Neese, a small business advocate, has a saying, “If you run a business and you’re not involved in public policy, then public policy will run your business.”

Small business owners can serve as leaders in demanding greater responsibility from Washington.  Every day we are making tough decisions, balancing our companies' budgets, economizing, and making prudent investments.  Washington politicians should have to do no less.  

Janet Cronick is owner and CEO of Ultimate Gifts, a promotional products logo merchandise company located in the Orange County, California area.
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