Presidential Candidates Propose Policies Affecting Small Businesses

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In a compelling presidential race that has seen the candidates in not just two or three, but four political parties making headlines, Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, made news when she announced on August 23 a policy platform specifically geared to making “life easier” for small businesses.

At present, Clinton is the only candidate to single out small businesses in her platform, though the platforms of Republican Donald Trump, as well as Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, and Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, all touch on policies that could significantly affect small businesses.

On her campaign website, Clinton notes the importance of small businesses as the “engine of the American economy,” pointing out that they create nearly two-thirds of new American jobs. Since 2007, however, new business creation has decreased by 15 percent, but Clinton outlines the ways she would help small businesses do better.

One such way is helping small businesses gain access to capital and find investors. Clinton’s plan notes that small business loans comprised just 29 percent of total bank loans in 2012, as compared with 51 percent in 1995. To expand small businesses’ access to capital, Clinton would look to “cut red tape for community banks and credit unions.” She would also expand and streamline the Small Business Administration’s Small Business Investment Company program, which provides community venture capitalists (who invest in businesses in low-income areas) and lenders with access to low-cost capital to invest in small businesses in their neighborhoods.

Clinton also promised to “support new innovative ways to assess creditworthiness for small business owners, while working to ensure that alternative credit profiles are not being used unfairly.” She would also look to “harness the potential of online lending platforms.”

Noting that the smallest businesses spend far more time doing their taxes than do larger businesses, Clinton asserts that her small business proposals will make it cheaper and faster to file taxes. She would also look to create a new standard deduction for small businesses. Rather than tracking and filing forms documenting their overhead costs, a small business would be offered the option of taking a single, simple deduction. Her plan would also allow small businesses with gross receipts up to $1 million to take advantage of “checkbook accounting” to simplify filing taxes in the manner of maintaining a checkbook or printing a bank statement, thereby reducing paperwork.

Clinton’s complete small business plan is available here.

While Donald Trump does not have a specific plan for small businesses, he has outlined his economic vision for the country, which includes helping small businesses through tax and regulatory reform. While claiming that Clinton would “tax some small businesses by as much as nearly 50 percent,” Trump notes his plan would limit taxes on all businesses to 15 percent of business income.

Trump asserts that regulations “may have cost the country 600,000 small businesses since the start of the recent recession” and resulted in “six million fewer jobs,” specifically blaming these losses on new finance regulations imposed by the Obama administration. As such, he promises regulatory reform, including a “temporary pause on new regulations and a review of previous regulations to see which need to be scrapped.” He also wants to require each federal agency to prepare a list of “all of the regulations they impose on American business, and rank them from most critical to health and safety to least critical.” He would then seek to repeal those regulations deemed “least critical.”

Trump’s plan also tackles healthcare, and he vows to pursue a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Instead, he would look to “modify existing law that inhibits the sale of health insurance across state lines. As long as the plan purchased complies with state requirements, any vendor ought to be able to offer insurance in any state.” By increasing competition in this way, he says that insurance costs would ultimately be more affordable. He would also allow individuals to fully deduct health insurance premium payments from their tax returns under the current tax system.

In what is an election cycle unlike any other since perhaps 1992, when Ross Perot was a third party candidate, there are not just two political parties making headlines, but four parties, as the Libertarian and Green Parties are doing their utmost to break up the current political duopoly.

On Gary Johnson’s campaign website, the Libertarian Party nominee promises to simplify the tax code and to stop business from taking advantage of tax laws to garner subsidies that hurt their competitors. He notes that the present tax code “penalizes productivity, savings and investment, while rewarding inefficiency and designating winners and losers according to political whim.” He advocates for the “elimination of special interest tax loopholes, to get rid of the double-taxation on small businesses, and, ultimately, the replacement of all income and payroll taxes with a single consumption tax that determines your tax burden by how much you spend, not how much you earn.”

Johnson says his plan aims to create a tax and regulatory environment that incentivizes a level playing field for businesses, and not one that picks winners and losers. He points out that “powerful corporate interests actually benefit from over-regulation” because they have the resources to comply with onerous laws. The average small businessperson, however, does not have teams of high-priced attorneys to help them “navigate the bureaucracy.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s platform provides what may be the most significant policy changes among all four presidential candidates. In her “Just Economy” plan, all workers would be guaranteed a living wage with the federal minimum wage set to $15 per hour. She would look to break up the big banks and “democratize the Federal Reserve.” Stein also promises to support development of worker and community cooperatives and small businesses, while creating “democratically-run public banks and utilities.” She also seeks to give all workers the right to organize a union without fear of being fired.

Stein would also require the full disclosure of corporate subsidies in the budget and demand that corporations “stop hiding subsidies in complicated tax code.”

Perhaps most significantly, Stein would establish a single-payer healthcare system to provide each citizen with health care. She asserts that this would eliminate $400 billion annually spent on the paperwork and bureaucracy of health insurance.