What Actual Job Creators Really Want

Isaiah J. Poole

Progressive activists are accustomed to raising the bull-droppings deflection shield whenever a conservative utters a sentence containing the words “job creators.” We know what’s coming—and there’s a lot of it.

Just in the 24-hour period between Thursday afternoon and this afternoon, 54,600 new mentions of the phrase “job creators” were added to Google’s search engine. Included were new pronouncements that President Obama is “raising taxes on job creators” and a proclamation that a “bipartisan” House bill “Reduces Red Tape on Job Creators,” an action needed because, as another site put it, “job creators … are ‘on strike’ and are not hiring because of too many government regulations.”

What’s not getting enough attention is the growing number of business leaders—actual job creators—who are taking umbrage at the policies being advocated in their name. While small businesses have been responsible for most of the net job creation of the past two decades, conservative policymaking in Washington takes its cues from big-business-dominated groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and corporate lobbyists.

More than 110,000 actual job-creating businesses, affiliated with more than 40 business organizations, are allied with the American Sustainable Business Council, one of the organizations that will be participating in the Take Back the American Dream conference in Washington October 3-5.

Richard Eidlin, director of public policy and business engagement for the council, says these are the businesses “that are committed to the community and are creating value for the community,” and their agenda is different from the one championed by conservative lawmakers in Washington. It is “built around the responsibility of American companies to build wealth for themselves, their employees and their communities” and their “obligation to pay their fair share of taxes.”

While the mantra recited almost to a person by conservative leaders about why the economy is not creating jobs—tax rates are too high, regulations are too onerous and government intervention has created too much “uncertainty” in the market—Eidlin says a top concern of his member businesses—in addition to, of course, lack of consumer demand—is “unavailability of capital.”

That problem was highlighted at a House Small Business Committee hearing in June. The ranking Democrat on that committee, Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez, said at that hearing, that today “small businesses are getting less capital than they did 5 years ago.”

Total small business loans dropped 2.4 percent from $624 billion in December 2010 to $609 billion in March 2011. Small loans of less than $100,000 were down by 2.9 percent, while large loans outstanding declined by 2.2 percent.

Yet House Republicans earlier this year pushed cuts in Small Business Administration lending programs designed to aid smaller businesses and particularly start-ups, the most prodigious job creators. For many young businesses, that means another slammed door coming right after the slammed door of tightened private sector credit by the nation’s largest banks, despite the Federal Reserve’s efforts to improve their liquidity.

Adding to the insult is the Republican opposition to the Obama administration’s American Jobs Act, including House Speaker John Boehner’s opposition to tax credits in the legislation that would benefit small businesses. “When we see Mr. Boehner’s response and disparagement of tax cuts for small businesses, we wonder if he’s in fact supporting the job creators of this country,” Eidlin said.

In the Senate, Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., chairman of the appropriations subcommittee on financial services, has been fighting to maintain funding for both the Small Business Administration and the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund, which supports and amplifies the small business lending efforts of banks and credit unions.

Last year, President Obama signed the Small Business Jobs Act, which provides incentives for community banks to extend small businesses the capital they need to grow their businesses and hire additional workers, as well as $12 billion in small business tax relief. Eidlin said that he would like to see Congress and regulators do more to “let community banks and credit unions step into the void” left by larger banks.

In the meantime, Eidlin’s organization also supports the American Jobs Act, calling it “a bold and practical jobs proposal that will help rebuild the economy. … The proposal’s focus on payroll tax cuts, unemployment benefits, and funding for public servants and infrastructure will put money in the pockets of small business owners and consumers.”

In taking part in the “Take Back the American Dream” conference, Eidlin hopes that his group can forge closer relationships with other progressive activists, and help those activists in turn understand better how they can support policies that will help businesses in their community do what many of them want to do—not just make money, but to increase the wealth and improve the well-being of their communities. We need to support a coalition of progressive job creators as an essential antidote to the “job creator” propaganda of the right.

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