• WisBusiness

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Guess who's coming to Washington?


By Dan Danner
It's a long way from Main Street America to Capitol Hill, a distance most small business owners prefer not to travel. But chances are, greater numbers than ever before may be packing up and moving to Washington, D.C. next year to take their seats in the 112th U.S. Congress.

After years of pleading with Congress to stop wasting their tax dollars, help them provide affordable healthcare, limit unnecessary regulation and red tape, many entrepreneurs felt they had no other choice but to place their names on the November 2 ballot.

Of the more than 200 congressional candidates the National Federation of Independent Business met with this year, more than half are active small business owners or have close ties to small business. More than two dozen are current members of the association.

And if elected, they'll bring with them something that is woefully missing from the legislative chambers: a spirit of optimism. After all, to launch a small business and succeed in the marketplace, one must be an optimist.

Most have reservations about entering an environment that has become poisoned with partisanship and stalled by gridlock. They worry that their businesses will suffer without their daily, hands-on guidance and they suspect this decision could be costly to their families and their futures as well. But, the alternative, they believe, is worse.

In virtually all discussions, it was evident they believed Congress and the White House had forgotten them and had abandoned the basic principles of free enterprise for political gain.

Small business owners have grown weary of the misguided efforts by those in power who have kept the economy stalled, unemployment lines growing and spread fear and confusion among consumers, investors and future entrepreneurs.

These candidates have committed themselves to restoring the core values that built the world's greatest free enterprise system and to re-educating Washington that you can't spend what you don't have, that governments don't create jobs or generate wealth.

America should expect those of this group who are elected to offer practical ideas, such as ending ill-conceived stimulus programs, bailouts and cash-for-clunkers gimmicks to trick consumers into boosting the economy. Consumers will spend when they have real jobs and incomes, trust them, and trust small businesses to create the jobs and incomes once freed of unnecessary federal burdens.

No, these fresh faces that may soon be seen in the halls of Congress won't solve the nation's economic problems right away, but they can bring optimism, experience and voices of reason to fiscal policy debates, and demonstrate that small business is the true engine of American economic strength and stability.

A long and difficult task to restore the economy faces the next Congress. Regardless of who wins the most seats in either House or Senate, it is crucial that lawmakers' attentions stay focused on what's good for the nation, rather than trying to score political points for the next election.

Having more small business owners in Congress sharing their free enterprise optimism will contribute greatly to that goal.

-- Danner is president and CEO of the National Federation of Independent Business in Washington, D.C.

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