Who speaks for small business?


On May 21, I received the daily mailing from Reader Supported News, which on that day included a reprint from the blog of former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich titled “The Revolt of Small Business Republicans.”

“For years, small­-business groups such as the National Federation of Independent Businesses have lined up behind big businesses lobbies,” Reich wrote. “They’ve contributed to the same Republican candidates and committees favored by big business. And they’ve eagerly connected the Republican Party in Washington to its local business base. Retailers, building contractors, franchisees, wholesalers, and restaurant owners are the bedrock of local Republican politics. But now small businesses are breaking ranks. They’re telling congressional Republicans not to make the deal at the very top of big businesses’ wish list — a cut in corporate tax rates.”

He quoted a press statement of the lobbyist for the faithfully Republican Associated Building Contractors, “Given the option, this or nothing, nothing is better for our members.”

Reich noted that “a corporate tax cut without a corresponding cut in individual tax rates would put small businesses at a competitive disadvantage” because of the different ways small and large business tax rates are handled in the federal tax code. Nor is that the only distinction between large corporations and small companies. Yet for many years, the latter have followed the leadership of the former.

As it happened, on the same day that mailing arrived in my mailbox, so did a second piece from a new group called Save Nevada Business.

“Save Nevada Business was established by business owners in Nevada to keep track of all the crazy things politicians are doing, and make sure that small businesses have representation,” the mailing read.

Unless each business has its own lobbyists or the resources to set up its own government affairs office, it said, the business was not being fairly represented, and that’s why it should join Save Nevada Business.

To get some idea of the lobbying operation SNB offers to businesses, I ran a search of the registered lobbyist list at the Nevada Legislature to find out who represents the group. I found lobbyists for the League to Save Lake Tahoe, Village League to Save Incline Assets Inc., and Save the Children, but no Save Nevada Business lobbyists.

There aren’t any.

Save Nevada Business Coalition did, however, sponsor a Libertarian Political Expo in Las Vegas last week, which began just seven days after its mailing arrived. Among the speakers scheduled at the event were Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, state Treasurer Dan Schwartz, state Controller Ron Knecht, assistant controller Geoffrey Lawrence and Libertarian Party chair of Nevada Brett Pojunis.

This isn’t exactly a lineup designed to inspire confidence in small businesses. The controller and treasurer earlier this year issued what they called an alternative state budget that raised questions in the minds of many, including some business lobbyists, of whether they grasped the concept — and they did it while the controller was seeking more staff, higher salaries and office remodeling just days after he first took office.

Moreover, their budget included $2 billion in corporate welfare to lure business to Nevada, a state that until recently was noted for staying away from giveaways to business. Small businesses rarely have the capital to take advantage of corporate welfare programs.

Moreover, libertarianism is hardly an obstacle to big businesses whose interests are often at odds with small businesses. It frequently advocates policies that foster big boxes and squeeze out small businesses. And at the moment, new businesses are finding it more difficult even to get into the economy.

“Contrary to the conventional view of an American economy bubbling with innovative small companies, the rate that new businesses have formed has slowed dramatically,” Reich points out. “Between 1978 and 2011, as big businesses expanded and solidified control over many industries, the pace of new business formation was halved, according to a Brookings Institution study released last year.”

Dennis Myers is a veteran Nevada journalist.