Every American should have the opportunity to find a job that allows them to care for their family, buy a house, save for the future, and enjoy a secure retirement. Unfortunately, many Americans are struggling to discover those opportunities. With 8 million people out of work and the loss of 1.3 million jobs over the last four years, we must find ways to jump-start our economy and reform our economic policies in ways that address the needs of working families. Small businesses are likely to drive future economic successes and our policies must recognize the importance of small businesses and provide them with the assistance they need to meet the many challenges they currently face.
Small business owners need help to pay for health insurance for themselves and their employees. The cost of health insurance shot up almost 50 percent over the last four years, and 45 million Americans are now uninsured. High health care costs for small business owners and their employees is a major expense that eats into funds that could otherwise be used to expand a business, offer more goods, and hire more workers.
I support the Small Business Health Insurance Promotion Act, which will aid small businesses with a 50 percent tax credit to create health insurance choices for their workers.
Improvements are sorely needed to modernize the electrical, water, and wastewater infrastructure in rural areas. We need to supply a reliable power system, access to clean water for homes and crops and the treatment of sewage. Affordable energy and broadband internet access should be available to rural areas as it is in urban centers. Developing our rural communities will create new jobs, fuel small businesses and attract larger businesses with even more jobs to offer. These improvements would mean a better place to live, as well as do business.
Open New Markets
We must pursue fair trade strategies that open markets, ensure a level playing field for American workers and businesses, and strengthen critical domestic industries, such as our manufacturing, intellectual property, and technology sectors. We should enforce existing trade obligations by pursuing well-documented cases in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and press other countries to end unfair trade practices like currency manipulation, which makes it harder for U.S. companies to stay competitive. I want fair trade policies that keep jobs here and provide opportunities for American small businesses and their employees.
Textile workers and their families are being hit hard by imports from China and Vietnam. Right now we restrict less expensive imports from these countries to keep them from flooding the market and drowning our industries. But WTO plans to lift these restrictions on January 1, 2005, will make things even more difficult for domestic textile companies to compete against unfairly priced imports.
Imports from these countries have a 40 percent price advantage because their governments cut costs by ignoring workers' rights and basic health and safety standards. They hoard U.S. dollars in their banks to lower the value of their own currency, which lowers the prices of their goods even more. This practice undercuts American products and puts American companies at a disadvantage in the marketplace. With these less expensive imports on the shelves, sales for American-made goods will drop.
We must work to find trade laws that make sense for American workers and end unfair practices by foreign manufacturers.
Access to Capital and Assistance
Small business growth means economic growth for the nation. But to keep this segment of our economy thriving, entrepreneurs need access to loans. Through loans, small business owners can expand their businesses, hire more workers and provide more goods and services. The Small Business Administration (SBA), a federal organization that aids small businesses with loan and development programs, is a key provider of support to small businesses. The SBA's main loan program accounts for 30 percent of all long-term small business borrowing in America.
We must increase funding for the SBA, including support for loan programs that create jobs and fuel the economy. Higher fees for the SBA's loan program will mean fewer businesses can afford loans, which will lead to less growth and fewer new jobs.
Federal regulations are an added burden for small businesses struggling to compete. More than 250,000 pages of new regulations, notices, rulings and proposals have been put forward by the federal government in recent years, and the Government Accountability Office has reported that Americans spend 720 million more hours per year filling out federal paperwork than they did three years ago. This added red tape puts small businesses at a disadvantage--for businesses with fewer than 20 employees, regulatory costs are 60 percent higher than for firms with more than 500 employees. The government needs to make it easier--not harder--for small business to operate.
Federal budget deficits also strongly impact loans for small businesses. Large deficits drive up interest rates, which makes it expensive for people to expand their small businesses or to start new ones. I favor responsible tax cuts that keep the federal budget in check and help small businesses across the board. This would include cutting taxes for domestic small businesses and the use of a pay-as-you-go system that balances spending expenses with cuts in other areas--like fewer tax cuts for large corporations that outsource American jobs. This will keep small businesses competitive and lower interest rates, promote growth and create jobs.
We must also end tax incentives for companies that ship their jobs overseas, rather than create them here. Currently companies that ship jobs to other countries receive federal tax breaks to give them an edge against foreign competition. This means that the current tax code encourages companies to move their production centers out of the U.S. to save money. It also gives them an unfair advantage in competing against small businesses that employ American workers and make their goods here.