A Small-Business Stimulus? No Thanks

Don't appeal to small-business special interests—just grow the economy.

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Tim Berry
It's not politics, or at least I don't think so, but speaking as a small-business owner, I mistrust all the analysis of "what's in it for us" related to the badly needed economic stimulus, the bailouts, and all of that.

I don't think this is a time for looking at major legislation through a myopic, self-centered looking glass. Not by anybody. This is a deep dip in all economic indicators at once, and we should be pulling together to get out of it.

What I need as a small-business owner is a healthy economy. I don't need the government to help me specifically, but I need the economy to offer financing for those with good credit and good projects, and jobs for people who want to work, education for kids, and higher education for employees—in short, a healthy economy.

Tax breaks? No, thanks—just generate jobs and growth. I've never been that profitable anyhow, because what would look like profits I spend on people and marketing and growth, all of which are tax deductible. Healthcare? Just don't mess with me; I give more than what the law requires already.

Anita Campbell of Small Business Trends said it very well in her post, earlier this week, Small Business Owners: Only YOU Can Save the Economy:

Yet groups invoke the "do it for the small businesses" mantra to support measures that really are intended for special interests. For instance, trade groups are asking for "buy American" protectionist provisions to "protect small business interests." Even Lou Dobbs (who I've come to admire for his tough stance on some issues) is beating a dead horse on the protectionism for small businesses theme. Another example: venture capitalists are lobbying to support their investments and the interests of the tiny handful of companies that get venture funding.

The problem is, we can't "help" every industry and every interest. And efforts to help one industry can have unintended consequences. As this Kelly Spors piece in the Wall Street Journal Independent Street blog points out, protectionism could hurt more small businesses than it helps.

None of these special interests represents every small business. The more help given to special interests, the harder the rest of the small businesses have to work in order to shoulder the taxpayer burden and ripple effects that result.

That makes a whole lot of sense to me. Small businesses aren't one big block; they're millions of separate businesses with different owners, different needs, different politics, and different opinions. I say let's have the government mind the big picture, and we'll mind our businesses.

Tim Berry is president and founder of Palo Alto Software, founder of bplans.com, and a co f ounder of Borland International. He teaches starting a business at the University of Oregon. He is author of books and software including Business Plan Pro, published by Palo Alto Software, and The Plan-As-You-Go Business Plan, published by Entrepreneur Press. He has a Stanford M.B.A. degree and degrees with honors from the University of Oregon and the University of Notre Dame. He blogs at Planning Startup Stories and Up and Running.