If you belong to the growing number of Americans who believe that the federal government is generally useless, then no doubt you are tearing out your hair in frustration right now. After all, this is campaign season, when the federal government is even more useless than usual.
And both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue are never more useless than when they are contemplating small business policy.
So President Obama has been fighting with the Republican-controlled House this summer over whether or not to extend the Bush era tax cuts for an unspecified amount of time — longer or shorter, depending on who you talk to.
President Obama wanted to extend those cuts but only for the “middle class,” or those households earning less than $250,000 in adjusted gross income. The upper income taxpayers excluded from the extention the President contemplates represent the top 10% income bracket.
You would think that House Republicans would leap at the chance to keep any expiring tax cuts in place, wouldn’t you?
After all, if you show yourself willing to work with your political opponents, there is always the possibility that your good faith negotiation will get you more of what you wanted further down the road.
During more reasonable times – say about two decades ago – members of Congress were statesmen enough to be willing to take half of what they wanted rather than walk away empty-handed. That kind of give-and-take also opened the opportunity for further amendments and other legislative tweaks that could get you evenmore of what you were pushing for in the first place.
That Was A Long Time Ago
Yes, boys and girls, once upon a time, our nation’s leaders were more interested in addressing the country’s problems than they were in raw partisan political power. Or, to be more accurate, they were smart enough to understand that those two things were not mutually exclusive.
Predictably, House Republicans voted down what President Obama was billing as a middle class and small business tax cut last month, because said tax cut would exclude those top earning small business owners … and everybody else.
According to House Small Business Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO) “President Obama’s proposed tax hike on 900,000 small businesses” would cost jobs, while the limbo in which President Bush’s taxes might expire (but we’re not really sure if that’ll happen yet) produces levels of uncertainty that cause small business owners to be unable to function.
Of course, the 900,000 small businesses to which the Chairman refers are actually 900,000 small business owners – or, to be still more accurate, 900,000 taxpayers who report any “small business” income at all on their tax returns.
Some of these small business owners, you may recall from the debates in 2003, include former President George W. Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. And, of course, the vast majority of the folks that those House members are fighting for have nothing at all to do with small businesses.
Besides all of which, even if we permit Chairman Graves to get away with his “900,000 small businesses,” we’re still only talking about roughly 3.5% of all the nation’s small businesses. Not exactly a move that is likely to completely crush the world’s second largest economy.
President Obama had another attack of his “We Can’t Wait”-policymaking-without-consulting-the-nation’s-legislature, and announced a slate of small business initiatives that mostly don’t require Congressional approval. By and large, they consist of a passel of tax cuts and loan programs, none of which meet the needs of the vast majority of small businesses.
While most microbusiness owners like the idea of paying less in taxes, many more of them would prefer tax simplification and other forms of regulatory relief. Nobody ever seems to talk about that when they talk about small businesses. But, then again, that’s not really the point of any of these exercises.
The point of all these exercises is to give all parties involved something to complain about on the campaign trail.
President Obama gets to propose so-called small business friendly legislation that isn’t going to be approved by the House (because the House isn’t going to approve anything that’ll give the President any sort of legislative victory) and then complain that Congressional Republicans aren’t doing enough to help small businesses.
House Republicans simultaneously get to move legislation that they know perfectly well is going nowhere because (they know perfectly well) President Obama is not going to sign it (always assuming they could get it past the Senate, which is unlikely) and then they can complain that President Obama isn’t doing enough to help small businesses.
The Best Part Of This Silly Game
Neither side in this kind of mud slinging match has proposed anything that would actually help the majority of small businesses anyway.
You see, that’s the nature of political campaign season. If you want to play spectator, a sense of humor helps to avoid high blood pressure and other symptoms of excessive stress.
Otherwise, you could end up with an ulcer just from listening to all that sound and fury that signifies nothing.
Campaign Season  Photo via Shutterstock