Last week, the lame-duck Congress returned to work for the second time since the election -- although it's the first time since Election Day that they've intended to do any real work. The White House and Congress continue play chicken with the impending fiscal cliff and to ignore the real things they could be doing to help rejuvenate the economy at the local level.
Normally I'd present a David-Letterman-style top 10 list of things that Congress, as well as the Administration and state legislatures, could be doing to help America's smallest businesses out (and get some real work done). But based on past performance and my expectations on how much they can accomplish, I'm lowering the bar to a top five list:
5. Get real with your deductions -- a deduction for a computer is nice, but how many computers will a micro-business -- the true engine of economic job growth -- really buy? Amend the tax rules to provide a real impact for small businesses, like a simple home office tax deduction and a meaningful health insurance deduction.
4. Only seven states offer self-employed job training for residents on unemployment. Why aren't the other 43 states providing the same incentive? State governments have a responsibility to help these unemployed Americans get the training they need to get back to work. Let's encourage entrepreneurship as a viable second career.
3. The Census Bureau is good at measuring so many different data points -- but shouldn't they also be measuring the economic impact of the self-employed, which make up 77 percent of America's small businesses? Sure, jobs and revenue numbers are important but we are ignoring key practices of small business that affect our economy such as, hiring independent contractors and other small businesses (i.e. accountants, lawyers, etc.) to help with different aspects of their business.
2. The Affordable Care Act may be anything but affordable for self-employed and micro business owners. While there are important market reforms that will ensure self-employed Americans can access coverage and not get turned down for health status, let's be careful on implementation of the law to ensure that costs stay low. Don't force someone to buy a Cadillac if they're fine with an affordable Honda.
1. Let's be serious about addressing the fiscal cliff. The political standoff on addressing a serious issue that could mean increased taxes for our job creators is no laughing matter. We can ensure that the majority of self-employed business owners fall within the household income cap when extending the income tax cuts while also being mindful of our nation's debt. The White House and Congress must deal with the expiring tax cuts and commit to comprehensive tax reform in 2013 in order to provide stability to our economy and a path forward.
I'm tired of hearing politicians campaign on small business issues, and then ignore those promises once they get in office. It's time to hold them accountable for what they say on the campaign trail. America's self-employed and micro business owners are hard-working individuals who put their blood, sweat and tears into their work. All they want to do is be successful. Congress, the Administration and state governments should do everything in their power to help them achieve success.