"Obama Offers Help for Small Businesses," shouts the headline atop The New York Times story that inspired me to get back to business with this blog.
I've been covering small business for most of the last third of my nearly 40-year journalism career, and I have to wonder how much national resolve is actually behind the words atop Jackie Calmes' story. If the president is serious, small business could show the nation the way out of the economic quagmire we are in.
Calmes covered President Barack Obama's speech at the Brookings Institution on Tuesday about job creation. Obama suggested eliminating capital gains taxes on small business investment -- as if many small businesses have money lying around to invest or still have it invested after the two-year stock-market crash; extending a stimulus-bill tax break through 2010 that allows small firms to write off $250,000 in qualified investments; and providing increased tax deductions of capital expenses.
My experience with small businesses suggests that no small-business owner worth his or her salt would turn down any kind of tax break made available to them; but that most owners would also view proposed tax incentives to increase hiring a kind of a "cart-before-the-horse" proposition.
Many owners, too, would simply complain that the paper work necessary and accounting expense of filing for the tax breaks eliminates the true incentive to taking advantage of them.
What small businesses need in terms of relief from this recession is lots of cash and a stimulated consumer and business marketplace for their goods and services.
Obama said his Treasury Department would step up loans to small businesses using unspent TARP funds. The assurance of such loans might indeed incent a small business owner to add an employee or two to his or her workforce.
But credit relief for consumers and existing small businesses -- how about a reinstatement of the credit-card-interest tax deduction? --might open more wallets more quickly to increased consumer and business-to-business buying and spending in 2010.
And more buying and spending, after all, is the best kind of economic stimulus a country can enjoy. Even, I might add, if it's government doing the spending.
My point, here, however, was not to suggest ways to extricate the economy from its worst recession in 50 years. It was to point out that Obama has small business on his mind.
The president never made small business much of an issue during his campaign, but since taking office, it seems, he has drunk the potion that opens one's eyes to the value of the job-creation engine that the nation's small firms have always been.
If more liberal lawmakers would taste the potion, too, this country might just pick itself up fast enough to keep from crying about a continuing economic downturn next Christmas.
And conservatives, by then, might be joyfully aghast at how fast Obama's administration is making progress at cutting into the huge deficits inherited from the last president's reign.