The Entrepreneurial President

Over the course of last night’s debate, Mitt Romney made a point that his top priority as President of the United States would be to support small businesses and “make America the most attractive place in the world for entrepreneurs”.

In fact, his plank on small business is so vital to his candidacy that he referenced the term over 14 times last night (16 times in the first debate). Even the central motif of the Republican National Convention last month was to articulate a storied vision of the American entrepreneur by repeating ad nauseum: “You didn’t built that!” But listening to him spew his facts and figures makes one wonder if he actually understands the plight of the average small business owner or if he even lives in the same universe as them.

It’s not surprising for a man who spent the majority of his career dismantling beloved American businesses such as K.B. Toys and Ampad to be completely out of touch with the average entrepreneur. After all, how much does the owner of “Bob’s Coffee Shop” down the street or the hair salon that you visit every month know about Calmar ratios and backstop purchasing? There’s a reason why Silicon Valley, ground zero for American entrepreneurship, favors Obama 2-1 and small business owners across the country tend to agree that Mitt Romney just doesn’t get it.

Rather than offering a fresh perspective on what entrepreneurs in this country need, Romney has ironically chosen to forgo the path of innovation and ingenuity and instead decided to peddle a broken Republican narrative on the needs of small businesses that fails to align with the priorities of the average entrepreneur. The core principle of his candidacy is a house of cards and a Presidency that stands atop it is a disaster waiting to happen.

He claims the largest detriments to small business success are high taxes and unfair competition from China. That is, the best thing the government can do to help create jobs is to “get out of the way” and bash heads in Beijing. He lives in a world where the President can somehow magically grow the economy by slashing taxes, gutting the federal government (the largest employer in the country), and punishing our largest economic trading partner.

But lets look at the facts. In a recent study by the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), the “problem” of high taxes – the sacred cow of Romney’s “five point plan” – doesn’t even register in the top five concerns of most small business owners in this country. And the United States Chamber of Commerce, America’s business lobby, has fundamentally opposed any movement to demonize China, designate China as a currency manipulator, and begin countervailing duties on Chinese imports that would eventually lead to a devastating trade war – all tenants of the Romney plan. In fact, by continuing the destructive practice of saber rattling against China, he’s critically handicapping the $101 billion worth of exports that American small businesses ship off to China every year. Forget the economics of his plan for a second; Romney’s two central points flow against what the majority of small businesses in America want.

More importantly though, Romney’s idea of an American small business owner, seeking to maximize profits by minimizing tax obligations and demonizing foreign customers is an affront to the fundamental ideals of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs thrive with a mission to invent, to dream big, and to make it on their own and the very idea that they are at their wits end because the federal government is asking for 39% instead of 30% is deeply offensive.

Indeed small businesses employ half of all workers in the United States and account for pretty much all long-term job growth. And Mitt Romney is right in that they should be the center of any feasible economic growth strategy. In fact, many even claim that making entrepreneurship the center of growth strategy isn’t just critical to economic growth but to gender pay equity as well, as women leave biased institutions to strike it out on their own.

But what small business owners need isn’t tax policy changes or more China bashing; rather what they need is a growing demand for their products abroad and at home through rising incomes and less trade restrictions as well as the talent to keep iterating their products over and over again. American manufacturing isn’t going to return by placing sanctions on China. It’s going to return as ingenious inventors and entrepreneurs build new technologies to revolutionize the industry – like the new Baxter Robot that does the work of a factory worker for less than a dollar an hour and has the potential to create an entire new sector of jobs.

And that’s going to come from a candidate that supported keeping college affordable for America’s future workforce by lowering interest rates on student loans and proposing to lower federal funding for any university that raises its tuition too fast. That’s going to come from a candidate that’s increased U.S. exports to China by 32% since taking office, while hitting them hard on trade and human rights violations. That’s going to come from a candidate that hired top entrepreneurs around the country to fundamentally “entrepreneurialize” the way federal government operates. That’s going to come from a candidate that consistently believes that immigrants (who founded 40% of our Fortune 500 companies) all deserve a fair shot at the American Dream – even if their parents had nothing to do with their current status.

That’s going to come from a candidate that isn’t Mitt Romney.


As always, I am always open to emails at timothy.t.hwang@gmail.com, tweets at @timthwang, and Facebook messages at timthwang.

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