Why only small business can save America

USA Today

The bad news is all around us and never seems to end. If it’s not Tea Party Republicans who somehow, shockingly seemed willing to allow the country to go into default before they would accept even the most basic of revenue increases, it’s a president who seems unable to match his legislative ability to his previous soaring rhetoric, sharp mind and historic promise.

And that’s for starters.

Unemployment remains far too high, hovering near 9%. The deficit is all too real and getting bigger. China is emerging as a global power, and taking the lead in creating green energy solutions – the clear, big playing field of this new century.

Here at home, Gen X and Gen Y’ers seem resigned to living in a country that was not as great as the one they were born into, and my generation – Baby Boomers – are only too happy to collect our benefits.

What are we to do?

Entrepreneurship is the answer. Small business to the rescue. Foster startup fever.

In America, small business has always been The Answer. More than 99% of businesses with payrolls in this country are small businesses, according to the Small Business Administration, and those small businesses historically employ more than half of all workers and create 80% of new jobs.

Small business is, and always has been, the engine that moves the country forward. So if the stagnant political class really wants to get this country moving again, and help reassert our rightful place as the most innovative, entrepreneurial, industrious place on the globe, they need to start enacting policies and programs that do one thing – help small businesses and entrepreneurs.

What we need is a comprehensive 21st Century Entrepreneurship Act.

Want to lower the unemployment rate? Cultivate small business startups and you will.

Want more tax revenue? Foster entrepreneurial growth and you will get it.

Want to see America create the Next Big Thing? Help small business and just watch where it leads us.

The last great boom, during the Clinton administration, created more than 20 million jobs, and many of those came from startups that grew. In 1992, hardly anyone had ever heard of the Internet and no one knew what an Amazon.com was. Today that company, started out of Jeff Bezos‘ garage, employs about 30,000 people. In 1992, Starbucks was a regional business with about 100 stores. Today it is a public company worth more than $27 billion, and it has more than 6,500 stores.

Was there ever a better friend to small business, someone who believed in the power of free enterprise, more than Ronald Reagan? As he said in a May, 1988 speech to students at Moscow University: "The explorers of the modern era are the entrepreneurs, men with vision, with the courage to take risks and faith enough to brave the unknown. These entrepreneurs and their small enterprises are responsible for almost all the economic growth in the United States."

The great economic growth during the Reagan administration was similarly fueled by a commitment to, and fostering of, entrepreneurship.

So what does "promoting small business and entrepreneurship" mean? What does it look like?

I am privileged to be a member of the board of the World Entrepreneurship Forum. This global think tank has spent a lot of time considering what governments can and should do to promote entrepreneurship. They include:

"Reform Regulations: To promote a truly entrepreneurship-centered business climate, reform tax and regulatory environments so as to make it easier, faster, and less costly for entrepreneurs to set up enterprises.

"Create Entrepreneur-Friendly Institutions: Introduce entrepreneurship-friendly support institutions that provide technological knowledge, market information, business know-how, certification services, access to capital, and other essential business support.

"Understand Entrepreneurship: Make it known that entrepreneurs are positive agents of social change, wealth creation, transparency, sustainability, and innovation."

A comprehensive 21st Century Entrepreneurship Act would include tax reform, and regulatory ease. It would include, as SBA administrator Karen Mills recently wrote, immigration reform so we can again attract the best and brightest entrepreneurs and engineers to our country. It would increase access to capital. It would help more startups start up. It would foster business incubators and programs like Business Matchmaking.

And it would require something that those in Washington have forgotten about, something that cannot be legislated, but cannot be ignored: It would require pulling together for the common good and the promise that is America.

I, like many Americans, am disappointed in both the president and Congress. But I still hold out hope, because I know what is possible, what we can do together. So to our leader, I say: Mr. President, tear down these walls!

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