At Wednesday night's debate, John McCain pitted Barack Obama's policies against the desires of some small business wannabee named Joe Wurzelbacher
, claiming Barack's policies would ace-out Joe's small business desires.
Well, has Joe ever heard McCain speak about small business? Besides mentioning in the past that it isn't his strong suit, McCain attempted to play the part of concerned politician at a small business round-table in blue-collar Bay Ridge, New York
Senator McCain was unremarkable not only in his lack of expertise on the subject of small business, but in the complete dearth of new ideas he presented. At one point in the roundtable, the chief of a precision machine shop said he was having trouble finding qualified machinists. McCain threw out a tired line: government subsidies for students to attend trade school. When the shop owner respectfully pointed out the systemic nature of the problem—that nobody in this country wants to go to trade school anymore—McCain paused for a moment, then simply reiterated his first suggestion before moving on to the next question.
And he's surrounded by Mayor Bloomberg and Carly Fiorina at this thing, mind you. So, how did McCain do according to this Newsweek blogger
Still, squashed as I was between rows of wood-frame cubicles in the hallway separating the window shop's front foyer from its back room, where McCain's advance team had constructed a makeshift press area complete with backdrop and risers, I couldn't help but stare--over the heads, mind you, of Mayor Bloomberg and former Hewlett-Packard CEO (and current McCain economic adviser) Carly Fiorina--at the senator's massive, scrolling teleprompter. McCain's economic weakness isn't really a lack of policy proposals; everyone knew those would come in time. (Expect more policy speeches to follow over the spring and summer). Instead, it's the fact that, by his own admission, "economics is something that I've really never understood as well as I should."
Which is why the most revealing part of the event came when McCain tore himself away from the cue cards and sat down with six local small-business owners for an unscripted roundtable. I can't say I was impressed. A typical exchange went something like this. Squinting, McCain asks Griggs Forelli of Precision Gears Incorporated, a local aerospace parts manufacturer, to "talk about health insurance." "Tell me about your experience with that question," McCain grumbles. Forelli says that every insurer he's tried has raised prices 18 percent a year with no explanation or negotiations. "I wish I were in the insurance business," he says. McCain asks Forelli whether "it would be better" if he "could look out of the state of New York, all over America," for insurance. "Senator, I don't have the answer," says Forelli. McCain repeats the question. Forelli again recounts his woes. Finally, Fiorina steps in. "One of the reasons Sen. McCain is asking this question," she says, "is because he has long proposed that companies be able to look for insurance wherever they choose to find it. The more competition, the better choices and prices you get." The sequence then repeats itself. McCain poses a pat question, nods, scribbles and eventually lets Fiorina bail him out--whether by riffing on his "classic straight talk" support of nuclear energy or boasting of his belief in "the power of choice" to improve the health care system. When Fiorina concluded with a two-minute speechlet on how, "even in this short period of time you can understand why I, as a businesswoman, have entrusted the economy to [McCain]," I couldn't help but think, "Not really." Nearly taciturn--his closing remarks, in contrast, consisted of "thank you everybody; I'm very grateful for this opportunity"--McCain looked like a guy who'd much rather be talking about Iraq than corporate tax rates.
And Fiorina proved, yet again, why she would have been a better running mate.
Why does he even bother? According to HuffPo
, McCain's small business plan lacks.
Outside of provisions designed to provide Fortune 500 corporations with tax cuts, Senator McCain's small business plan ignores several of the most significant problems facing small businesses.
Senator McCain's plan makes no mention of restoring of the Small Business Administrations budget and staffing to pre-Bush Administration levels. Since 2001, President Bush has cut the SBA's budget and staffing more than any other federal agency. Today, the SBA's budget and staff are approximately half of what they were when President Bush took office. The SBA is the only federal agency specifically chartered with assisting America's 27 million small businesses.
As a result of cutbacks at the SBA, a multitude of federal contracting and loan programs to assist woman-owned firms, minority owned firms veteran-owned firms and small businesses in general have been severely damaged. With Bush Administration cutbacks in mind, small business advocates are concerned President Bush may still attempt to close the SBA by combining it with the Commerce Department. Any realistic plan to assist America's 27 million small businesses should include a framework for putting the SBA back on track.
In 2000, Congress passed legislation establishing a 5 percent set-aside program for woman-owned small business. During its tenure, The Bush Administration has refused to implement the program. The Bush Administration even ignored a federal court order directing them to implement the program. Although Senator Obama has indicated his administration would implement the program, Senator McCain's small business plan makes no mention of his intention to finally launch the program.
He could have at least mentioned the SBA thing at the debate. Might have been more maverickish than attacking Obama. Because, outside of appeasing one Joe plumber, he's got a tide of small business owners yearning to hear something from him. He needed to confront criticism like this:Group says McCain doesn't care 'a bit about small business'
[Lloyd] Chapman [president of the ASBL] emphasized that small businesses are suffering because large corporations are receiving small business contracts, a policy implemented by former SBA Administrator Steven Preston, now Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
According to the plan, posted on McCain's web site, McCain will cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent. He will also reduce the estate tax rate to 15 percent, with an exemption for families worth less than $10 million.
McCain also suggests building 45 new nuclear power plants and the increased use of coal, as well as a summer gas tax holiday. In the plan, McCain says he will provide $5,000 in heath insurance for every family.
Chapman did not believe that McCain's energy plans would help small business and said that if McCain wanted to help reduce energy costs, he should support extensive profit taxes for the oil and gas industry.