In order to make the most of his next 100 days in office, President Donald Trump must find more common ground within the Republican Party and find ways to appeal to a broader segment of voters, beyond his base.
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I suggest a simple, unifying goal: Make small business great again. Putting the interests of small business first will be a political winner across voting segments (small business is a popular institution, outranking most groups in opinion polls) that is consistent with both the president’s populism and economic goals. It also fits perfectly with Republicans’ interest in the free-market principles of limited government. Plus, if America’s leaders do the right thing for small business on pending issues like health care and tax reform, they will unleash the sector’s unique powers of job creation – the holy grail of political success.
A small-business message will also resonate with the aspirational nature of many minority groups, especially the Hispanic community, which has a strong entrepreneurial streak – Hispanics are 1.5 times more likely than the general population to become entrepreneurs and Hispanic-owned businesses are growing at 15 times the national growth rate. The Latino community’s support of pro-small-business policy initiatives would be a grassroots boon and may even help earn the votes of Congressional Democrats – a stated goal of the White House. A nod to the Hispanic community now could even pay some immigration-reform dividends later.
It is easy to picture Trump rallies – an important grassroots tool the president should employ more often – structured around a theme of small business and entrepreneurship. As a business owner himself, the president has tremendous credibility with the small-business community – meaning that a group of people who rarely take a vacation, or even a day off, might just close shop early to hear their president talk about tax reform or health care. Coverage of these events would make very good television.
On taxes, small-business owners will want to hear the president talk about individual rates because they don’t pay corporate taxes, they pay individual taxes, and they pay them at often-astronomically high rates (they aren’t “the rich,” but their rates can approach 40 percent for federal taxes alone). They also hate the death tax – because even if its threshold is high enough to never impact them, the concept of double taxation, and the taxation of success and inheritance, are anathema to what they do and who they are.
On health care, small-business owners are almost a one-note tune: cost, cost, cost. It’s a song they’ve been singing for thirty years, and Washington hasn’t listened. Instead, Obamcare delivered premium and deductible increases that have added insult to injury. To be politically successful, Obamacare repeal and replace must be about cost; the president should make this the chorus of his next push for reform.
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The Trump Administration’s promise to small business is already on the table. At a recent meeting of The Latino Coalition, Vice President Mike Pence told the group of independent business owners: “The Trump Administration will be the best friend American small businesses will ever have, because when small business is strong, the American economy is strong.”
For economic reasons, the president must make this statement come true. A concerted effort on behalf of small business will encourage and inspire new business formations, which is essential for new jobs in the short term and a more resilient economy over the long term.
For political reasons, making small business a big priority in his second 100 days could help the president lead his party by giving the GOP the common ground they desperately need to govern.
Hector Barreto is the Chairman of The Latino Coalition and the former Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration.